Pavel Daneiko Institute of Privatisation and Management, Director, Minsk
Our discussion has concentrated on the problems relating to the conflict in Yugoslavia. Without diminishing the significance of this issue, I would still like to get back to the subject of the seminar: Belarus, Russia and the new Europe.
In my perception, the developments in Yugoslavia did not change the world. Rather, they made us realise that the world has already become different. The problem for Belarus and Russia is how the public in these countries realises the transformation, and to what extent it is able to adjust its perception of itself and the world in accordance with the new realities, and to what degree our nations are able to interact with Europe in the dialogue on establishment of the different world order, based on common of values, rather than a bipolar balance of power.
Now, we witness a new change in correlation of forces in the world. Therefore, there should be transformation of the contract relations that codity political stability in Europe and worldwide. Russia and the West are facing a challenge. Will Russia be able to understand its place in the changed world and articulate its national interests in the new environment? Will the West be able to adequately perceive its responsibility in the changed world and manage to build up an effective dialogue with Russia?
The liberal ideology within the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) is taking root with difficulties. This process is developing in different countries at different pace. Liberal thinking suggests that national interests are evaluated from the viewpoint of the social and economic interests of the citizens.
The current political Union of Russia and Belarus will undergo transformation along with the development of dialogue with Europe based on liberal thinking, which is being shaped in these countries. The emergence of liberal thinking in the Russian society is linked to the realisation of Russia?s national interests conceived through economic and social interests of citizens. This process will be accompanied by a gradual disengagement from the imperial component in political thinking of Russia?s political class.
When Belarus gained independence, the incumbent authorities proved to be incapable of formulating national interests and give a clear idea on the nature and significance of independence to ordinary citizens.
At the same time, for the nine years of independence the system of values of the Belarusian public has changed radically. In 1990-91 only 4-5% of the respondents favoured Belarus? independence, as compared to over 40% now. Over 60% of the respondents usually give positive answer to the direct question: Would you like Belarus to be independent? However, many of them positively respond to the question "Do you want unification with Russia?" It is worth mentioning in the discussion of the future evolution of Belarus that given the most pessimistic assessment, demographic factor will have a final say: the older generation will be succeeded by those people for whom independence of Belarus is not an unexpected or unwanted gift, but a natural thing and a reality of their life.
Based on the aforesaid, I would like to answer the questions of our seminar. Firstly, concerning the relationships between Belarus and Russia within the context of European integration. In the foreseeable future Belarus and Russia will not be able to develop stable and lasting bila-teral relations until domestic changes in these two countries take place. The broader and more trustworthy the Russia- Belarus relationships, the bigger transformation the existing Union of Belarus and Russia will be subject to. To which extent is the Belarusian-Russian integration linked with the enlargement of NATO? My understanding is that neither NATO enlargement is related to the Belarus-Russia Union nor the Belarus-Russia Union is related to the expansion of NATO. These events simply provided both parties with additional arguments to realise their goals.
What are expectations for a better future? I think that it is of extreme importance for all political forces to find the chances and opportunities available for our countries in the changing world. It is essential to set up a proper dialogue or a proper bargaining, so to say. However, there is a problem there. Effective bargaining requires a very clear definition of the national interests. I guess it is possible to speak about the failure of M. Gorbachev?s and, to a degree, of Y. Prima-kov?s policy due to one simple reason - they were unable to articulate Russia?s national interests in liberal terms and economic notions understandable for everyone. This is the problem to be solved.
Currently, the essential problem for Belarus is a dialogue between opposition and the government. Presently, the leaders of opposition have more personal animosity for A. Lukashenko than responsibility for the future of Belarus. It is inconceivable for the incumbent government to maintain dialogue or, at least, find common decisions with opposition. Nevertheless, I am confident that in the near future we will achieve a certain breakthrough in these relations for the sake of more optimistic prospects of development of Belarus-Europe and Belarus-Russia relations.