The meeting of representatives of the three states - Poland, Russia, and Belarus - to discuss regional aspects of the security system and possibilities of cooperation within the Moscow-Minsk-Warsaw triangle is a very beneficial event. The participants represent themselves rather than their nations (although they do represent their nations, or the peoples to be more precise, through their way of thinking and patriotic attitude towards their nation). If a dialogue between nations is either on a very official or an emotional level, these nations are separated by the existing problems rather than being united through searching a way out. Obviously, such disunity can be fatal for each nation, the whole region and the entire continent.
Despite numerous international conferences we take part in, there are very few scenarios offered for discussion. This is possibly connected with the deficiency of activities where the problems that we are currently facing could be addressed and discussed beyond the context of the current political events and various political viewpoints and likings, using only analytical approaches. At least, in Europe. We lack meetings where Polish, Belarusian, Baltic, Russian, Ukrainian, German, and American experts could jointly discuss topics that are most critical for us.
While looking for an efficient way to develop relations between our countries, we should talk about more specific issues rather than security or cooperation in general. It is the approach to the problems - the concrete ways to resolve them - that may become more efficient in certain areas. Therefore, if the three nations agree on the methods to resolve common problems, then a consensus can be achieved. Based on the consensus resolution of the existing problems would be possible. Achieving consensus is certainly one of the political tools required for each party to achieve its aims and interests.
Agreement with regard to a principle or standard lies beyond any definite ideological or political field and beyond a distinctive context. On the level of concrete and practical activities such agreement can have a positive effect on our nations' interests.
The Context of Relations between Poland, Russia, and Belarus
Poland is a NATO member currently negotiating possible integration with the European Union (EU). Russia has structured relations into NATO within the NATO- Russia Council. Belarus is a not very active member of the Partnership for Peace (PfP) programme. So far there are no other connections between Belarus and the Alliance. Thus, how can cooperation be developed between the nations with different regimes, levels of economic development and aims of their foreign policies?
We realise that the bipolar world that collapsed more than a decade ago still makes us think of the world we live in. Development of the situation in Europe, the Far East, Russia and the post-Soviet area is in nearly every case faster than our intellectual capability to understand what is going on. If there are any organisations or institutions where scenarios of development of events or relations are prepared, we are still very far from the situation when these scenarios can be implemented. This happens because each of us is, to a degree, a successor of the past and addresses such scenarios independently and without a feedback from other anticipated participants. "Each of us" stands for the organisations and institutions that are collectively called Brussels, Moscow etc.
It is indicative that less attention is paid to NATO in the present discussions. This is a very positive sign that de-monstrates that having security in mind we start addres- sing it in its current meaning. We see that Poland's entry in NATO and the Alliance's enlargement basically did not add any new obstacles and barriers both along our borders and on the way of cooperation between our nations.
We clearly understand that we face a major challenge - expansion of the EU. It is the EU expansion that makes the problem of borders and barriers really topical. Until now transition areas existed between EU members and the states that have no special relations with the EU - neither having associated EU membership nor awaiting negotiations to join it. Poland, the Baltic states, Hungary, and Romania still constitute this area. If the EU remains the way it is now - with the same border and customs policy - and if the Baltic states, Poland,
Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovenia, and Croatia join it within 5-10 years, then this area will disappear. This will be a very important event that will put Poland in a completely different situation making it an EU border nation.
Germany is known to have recently lobbied Polish membership in NATO. Although the situation is slightly different with the EU, German attitude toward this issue indicates its interest in Poland's early EU membership. Nobody wants to be a border nation.
A problem associated with the future of the eastern border - with Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia's Kaliningrad region - is currently discussed in Poland. This is one of the major issues for analysts in many research centres.
Standards of Membership in Unions of States
There is no analogy between the standards and requirements for members and candidates to NATO and the EU and the standards and requirements for the members of the Union of Russia and Belarus. While Russia is a democratic state, it is surprising why her policy towards Belarus lacks guidelines to promote a higher level of democracy in Belarus.
The principle on which both NATO and the EU are based is compliance by independent member states with certain standards. Of course, this means that these organisations' member states lose their independence only partly and in certain aspects. But in general this does not lead to a loss of independence and sovereignty. The EU makes a classic example of it.
If we take into account not just declarative statements of the incumbent European politicians, then in reality we can clearly discriminate between foreign policies of Germany, France, Great Britain and each single member of the EU. It is common knowledge that national interests of EU members do not always coincide. There are concrete examples of discrepancies in the national interests of various EU members that are typically caused by negative historic experience, stereotypes or prejudices.
On the whole, development of a common foreign and defence policy of the European Union is a special problem. Its practical resolution lies in the future, and it seems that this future will not happen soon. Had it been as simple as it is put in the declarations, already now we could see a single EU representative in the UN Security Council. Why representing several European nations in the UN Security Council along with the existence and pursuit of a common foreign policy of the EU? A common foreign and defence policy of the European Union is a process whose future has not been fully defined yet. The result of this process can only be known in the future.
Polish Viewpoint on the Belarusian Choice
Poland respects each people's or nation's right to join the unions or relations they would like to establish. If, however, there is a grounded suspicion that the society had no possibility of a democratic choice - whether it does or does not want to join such unions or have such relations - doubts about legality of such unions and relations always emerge.
If the population of democratic Belarus by the majority of votes supports an idea of the union not just in its present form, but even votes to become part of Russia, this would mean realisation of the lawful right to a democratic choice. However, this choice requires prerequisites. If it is known that the prerequisites do not exist and there are no democratic tools for the realisation of the choice, then there is always room for doubts as to the legality of the decisions made by the government.
This position of Poland is conditioned not just by the fact that Poland well remembers its history or will always be guided by its own stereotypes. This is absolutely pragmatic rather than emotional approach.
I am not familiar with the Poles thinking that Belarus has to choose between the West, meaning that its policy should be anti-Russian, and Russia - in that case the policy of Belarus should become anti-Western. Such choice would be fatal for Belarus in any case - either pro-Western or pro-Russian. It would have had grave consequences for Europe, Russia and - ultimately - for Belarus.
In reality, nobody talks on such simplified choice. No one can be forced to carry out a unidirectional policy since it is just not reasonable. Negative consequences of such a policy would be felt not only by its objects. It is very unreasonable and unpractical even for those toward whom such unidirectional policy is oriented and in whose interests it is carried out.
We should determine concrete issues for discussion to carry on our dialogue. The most pressing ones would be: the future boundary between the EU and Belarus/Russia and the problem of the Kaliningrad exclave.
The latter problem is very important and sensitive for Poland and not only from the viewpoint of a military threat. This exclave can become a time bomb for everyone - the Baltic Sea nations, the EU, Belarus, and Russia. It encompasses numerous social and environmental problems that cannot be resolved within Kaliningrad's current status and the present relations of this region with the neighbouring states.
If we stop thinking of Kaliningrad's future, this region may eventually get trapped by problems of a much larger scale than the existing possibilities for their resolution. That is what can make it a time bomb for the region and the whole continent. The issues relating to the border and Kaliningrad are priority subjects for discussion in the near future.
* Agneszka Magdziak-Miszewska , Programme Director, International Relations Centre, Warsaw.