Updated at 17:58,28-05-2022

Lukashenka: Belarus is not afraid of NATO

Naviny.by / BelaPAN

Belarus is not afraid of NATO but the military bloc views the country as an enemy, Alyaksandr Lukashenka said in an interview broadcast by a Ukrainian TV channel on Friday.

He said that Belarus had to respond “symmetrically” to every military move by NATO and its member states. “If you hold an exercise, we hold an exercise, you keep your army in order and we have to keep our army in order,” he said, adding that the Belarusian army was trained to “cause unacceptable damage” to NATO in the event of a conflict.

Mr. Lukashenka attacked the European Union’s policy toward Belarus, which he said includes economic pressure, visa sanctions and “blackmail.” He also reiterated his criticism of Poland for allegedly viewing western Belarus as part of its historical territory. “What, should we sit and wait for a shotgun-toting man to come to us and draw out his whip, and we will be living here under this whip again. I don’t want my people to face this,” he said.

At the same time, he said, Belarus does not and will not regard NATO as a potential aggressor, but does not want NATO to expand further eastward.

Mr. Lukashenka warned that the annexation of Crimea by Russia could prompt Ukraine to seek NATO membership or invite NATO troops to set up bases there. “This is the most undesirable development for Russia and Belarus. This is more important than Crimea,” he said.

Mr. Lukashenka expressed regret that pro-European and anti-Russian sentiment has been growing stronger in Ukraine. “I told [Russian President Vladimir] Putin that it would be not a problem to incorporate Crimea into Russia, and so would be doing something in Ukraine, helping someone. But while making any step one needs to see the consequences,” he said.

Mr. Lukashenka acknowledged that Russia’s military intervention in Crimea had given Kyiv a reason to invite NATO troops into its territory, which he said would be the most undesirable consequence for Moscow.

If Ukraine had been a NATO member, Russia would have never sent its troops to Crimea and absorbed the peninsula, Mr. Lukashenka argued. “And no one would have dared take steps to wage war against NATO,” he said. “But this argument would have been valid until they had started stabbing ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking people in Crimea or in the east. Then Russia and Belarus would not have thought about whether or not this is a NATO country… But I don’t think that there are so many thugs in Ukraine that such massacre could begin.”