As the United States increases the financing of its contingents in Central and Eastern Europe, Russia and Belarus need to cooperate and develop a single defense field, despite the fact the Russia has no airfield in Belarus. President of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems, the former head of the Chief Department of the International Military Cooperation at the Russian Defense Ministry, Colonel General Leonid Ivashov made such statement talking to EADaily on February 8.
“The U.S is reinforcing its contingent in Europe not just through NATO. Washington is reinforcing the nuclear, ground, air and naval components too. These forces are approaching the borders of the NATO countries and Russia. The most vulnerable areas for Russia are the Baltics and the border with Poland. We need to respond to these challenges in an integrated manner. It can be firm behavior at the Security Council, activity in Europe, and military buildup, of course,” Ivashov said.
Russia has not yet managed to agree with Alexander Lukashenko over deployment of its airbase in Belarus, which is not critical for Russia, the military expert said. He is sure that the formal absence of the airbase does not impede the development of the military cooperation of the two countries. “If Alexander Lukashenko dislikes the idea of the airbase or he considers it as certain violation of Belarus’ sovereignty, there is no need to register the military base legally. The countries just need to develop a single defense field. The countries have a joint Collegium of the defense ministries; their general staffs cooperate. During military exercises, command-and-staff drills, the two countries work out the issues connected with the security of not only Belarus but also our western strategic directions, including the Baltics. In case of a real threat, it will not be hard to redeploy a number of military units, including airbases. On the other hand, we need to help Belarus reinforce its troops,” Leonid Ivashov said.
As for the possible situation when pro-Western forces come to power in Belarus and the military cooperation is curbed, Ivashov is sure that such scenario must be prevented not to repeat the mistakes made in Ukraine. “We must work on it and base the cooperation with the allied state Belarus on the humanitarian issues, culture, science, education and joint technologies, not on economy that disintegrates peoples. Meantime, we just try to take from Lukashenko his efficient enterprises and give them to our oligarchs,” the expert said.
He said Lukashenko will remain neutral in international issues, unless Russia changes its strategy. “This depends on our behavior. If we make him give his enterprises to our companies and keep interfering with his domestic policy, he will strive for neutrality. Both U.S. and Europe are working with him now. They are lifting the sanctions on Belarus, while we are dictating our terms sitting on the oil-and-gas pipe. Unions are not built in such way. In addition, Russia is not an example to follow. We have a weak and inefficient government. Having rich resources, we live worse than Belarusians today. We are not exemplary. We privatize the last enterprise and even tend to teach something to Belarus. If we continue to behave so, Lukashenko will strive for independence,” Ivashov said.
Earlier, it was reported that U.S. seeks to increase the financing of its contingents in Europe manifold. According to The New York Times, President Barack Obama plans to substantially increase the deployment of heavy weapons, armored vehicles and other equipment to NATO countries in Central and Eastern Europe, a move that administration officials said was aimed at “deterring Russia from further aggression in the region.” In this light, the deployment of a Russian airbase in Belarus become as never relevant. Yet this issue has been settled not in favor of Russia. On February 5, Alexander Lukashenko met with Vladimir Putin. According to official data, the two leaders “aligned positions on a number of issues.”