Dmitry Medvedev: Russia’s relations with other states have already been the subject of my video blog. I have discussed the direction our cooperation with the United States is taking and explained why I think it is vital for our country to take part in the meetings of the twenty leading economies in the world. During what was perhaps one of the most dramatic moments in our relations with Ukraine last summer, I shared with you my thoughts on why our attempts to establish a dialogue with President Yushchenko had been exhausted.
Today I want to talk about what is happening in the relationship with our closest ally: Belarus. I want to address both the Russian and Belarusian people. After all, we are all citizens of the Union State.
It is my deep conviction that our country has always treated and will continue to treat the Belarusian people as our closest neighbour. We are united by centuries-old history, shared culture, common joys and common sorrows. We will always remember that our nations — and I always want to say “our single nation” — have suffered huge losses during the Great Patriotic War. Together we survived terrible hardships of the collectivisation, famine and repressions.
Now Russia and Belarus are partners in the Union State. Both of our countries are also actively involved in the creation of the Customs Union, in the development of the EurAsEC, CSTO and the Commonwealth of Independent States. We intend to fully expand our cooperation with Belarus within the framework of these organisations. We will continue to consistently develop modern forms of economic interaction in full accordance with international practice of relations between such close allies as our countries.
Proceeding from this, we have always helped the people of Belarus. In fact, since the collapse of the Soviet Union almost 20 years ago, the volumes of this support, whatever they say, have been huge. Only this year our help to Belarus in the form of favourable oil supply terms amounted to almost two billion dollars. There are comparable subsidies in the supply of Russian gas to Belarus. We do all this because we firmly believe that our nations are inextricably linked.
It is therefore particularly surprising that the Belarusian leadership has recently adopted an anti-Russian rhetoric. The election campaign there is built entirely on anti-Russian slogans, hysterical accusations of Russia’s unwillingness to support the Belarusian people and the Belarusian economy, and curses addressed at the Russian leadership. What we can discern behind all this is a clear desire to cause discord between the states and, accordingly, the nations.
The inclination to create an image of an external enemy in the public consciousness has always distinguished the Belarusian leadership. In the past this role was assigned to the United States, Europe and the West in general. Now Russia has been declared one of the main enemies.
In his comments, President Lukashenko goes far beyond not only diplomatic protocol but also basic human decency. However, this was nothing new to me. I remember my surprise when during our first bilateral meeting, instead of concentrating on Russian-Belarusian ties, he expounded in great detail and in a highly negatively vein on my predecessors as presidents of Russia, Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin. I had to remind my colleague at the time that we had entirely different issues on our agenda.
Mr Lukashenko demonstrated this original understanding of our partnerships in the issue of Belarus’ recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent members of the international community. I have said repeatedly: it is a sovereign right of each state to recognise the two new nations or not to recognize them. We never exerted any pressure on anybody in this issue even though it was an important matter for us.
The President of Belarus declared his readiness to do so in the presence of his colleagues, five presidents of other states. To be perfectly open, there is a corresponding entry in the minutes of a CSTO meeting. Later this issue became a permanent instrument of political bargaining.
But Russia does not sell out its principles. Such conduct is dishonest, and partners do not behave like this. And, of course, we will bear this in mind when building relations with the current President of Belarus.
A flood of accusations and abuse has been directed against Russia and its leadership. Mr Lukashenko’s entire election campaign is based on that. He is concerned about a great number of issues: restoring order in our economic relations, the communication of Russian media with the Belarusian opposition, and even the fate of some of our high-ranking officials, retired and dismissed.
The President of Belarus should concern himself with his country’s internal problems, including, finally, the investigation of numerous cases of disappearances. Russia, like other countries, is not indifferent to that.
Of course, this is not what defines the relations between nations and individuals. I am certain of this as President of the Russian Federation. I am also sure that this senseless period of tension is certain to come to an end.
I would just like to say this openly: Russia is ready to develop allied relations with Belarus. Moreover, no matter who leads Russia and Belarus, our peoples will forever be fraternal. We want our citizens not to live in fear, but in an atmosphere of freedom, democracy and justice. And we are ready to pursue this together with our Belarusian friends.