Bridge between US and Russia? Belarus, Poland discuss military cooperation

Hostile rhetoric as a cover-up for an attempt to negotiate: Belarus’ and Poland’s top brass are establishing contacts while Lukashenka are publicly slamming the western neighbours. Will Minsk and Warsaw help defuse the tension between Moscow and Washington?

Last Friday, the Belarusian leader demonized the ‘insidious’ West and warned against the Polish threat during the Big Conversation With President. Just four days later, the Belarusian military were on quite a friendly mission in Warsaw.

“Consultations between the Defense Ministry of Belarus and the Polish Ministry of National Defense are underway in Warsaw. The parties are discussing bilateral military cooperation. The agenda of the consultations also includes issues of international and regional security,” the Belarusian MoD reports.

However, the ministry refused to disclose details of the visit.

“No comment. All necessary information on military cooperation is posted and will be posted on our website,” MoD Spokesman Uladzimir Makarau told Belsat.

It is the second meeting that has been held in a long period of time. In late August, the Polish delegation led by Colonel Tomasz Kowalik, Head of the Foreign Affairs Department of Poland’s MoD, came to Brest. Aleh Voinau, Head of the Department of International Military Cooperation, is in charge of the group of Belarusian officers that arrived in Warsaw on Tuesday. The Polish Defense Ministry has also been scant of comments:

“The main objective of the visit is discussing bilateral relations, including the implementation of the agreement on the development of confidence-building measures in the region,” they noted.

Experts explain the military officials’ restrained language:

“This is an important stage in Poland and Belarus relations. Its goal is de-escalating and explaining all the steps being made by Minsk and Warsaw to the neighbour,” Paweł Fleischer, an expert at the Polish Insitute for Forecasting and International Studies, believes.

Poland is negotiating the stationing of an US military base; Russia is deploying missiles in Kaliningrad, and the United States announced its withdrawal from the INF treaty. Belarusian and Polish military’s cooperation may can help ease the Moscow-Washington tension.

“This is not a summit, just a working meeting. Such visits do not usually receive a wide coverage. In diplomacy, it is common practice to very sparingly speak on some subjects,” Fleischer stressed.

But not everyone believes in Minsk’s ability to be a parlementaire between Russia and NATO.

“Lukashenka wants to tease Russia, force economic concessions out of it, make Russia be more flexible in solving the problems that have arisen (the non-admission of Belarusian goods to the Russian markets, energy prices, etc). That’s it,” Belarusian military expert Alyaksandr Alesin said.

Whatever it be, Minsk considers the current arms race as not only a threat, but also a chance to raise its significance, both in the regional economy and politics.

“Today, the West and the East do not have other communication arteries between themselves from great China to Germany, Great Britain and France – Belarus is second to none. And it is everyone and his uncle who goes, crawls and runs here [throughy Belarus]! Well, do them a favour!” Lukashenka ordered.

Lukashenka: Russia falling into hysterics over Belarus-West cooperation