Agenda of Polish-Belarusian Relations: Problems of the Border, Mutually Beneficial Cooperation and Minorities

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Опубликовано в библиотеке: 2016-06-09
Источник: Беларусь в мире, 01-01-2000

Автор: Pyotr Naimski, National Security Adviser to Prime Minister of Poland, Warsaw.

Geographically, our discussion is limited to the region of Europe encompassing Belarus, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, as well as the northwestern part of Russia including the Kaliningrad region. Historically, almost the whole of this region, including Belarus, was the area of rivalry between Rzeczpospolita Polska and the Moscow State. Surely, this centuries-long dispute has left traces, which are part of our identity. Over six million Poles have recently seen Pan Tadeusz, a film based on a poem by the great Polish poet Adam Mickiewicz, where in one of the scenes he exclaims in Polish "Oh, Lithuania, my homeland!" referring to the outskirts of the city of Novahrudak. This is a symbol passed to us by our ancestors. Of course, we must remember that. Two aspects of security

As regards security, we must bear in mind that it can be viewed as a broad phenomenon, which includes security as limitation of possibilities for direct aggression and occupation of territories. Poland, in this regard, has such concerns. Poland received security guarantees upon its admittance to NATO.

Yet security has another, not so broad dimension. In a narrower sense security also means reduction or absence of tensions in relations between neighbouring states. Thus, the issues of borders, mutually beneficial trade, cultural exchange and others gain importance. Security is also a condition for normal deve-lopment of national minorities living in our countries.

It is necessary to work on a daily basis to achieve security perceived this way. This can be described as a permanent process, rather than a state of security at this particular time frame. Certain entities should exist and operate to be able to conduct such work. Ideally, independent states are such entities. It should be emphasised that they should necessarily be independent, not just sovereign. For example, Tatarstan has also proclaimed its sovereignty. However, an independent nation is a state with a government, which, in its turn, is sovereign and elected independently. It is exactly this type of state that Poland wants to see among its neighbours.

Belarus' Independence as a Factor of Regional Security

Actual existence of independent entities and particularly Belarus in this capacity is an indispensable prere-quisite for providing security in the aforementioned region of Europe. If, for whatever reason, Belarus cannot be an independent entity, its territory - in every meaning of this word - will become the site of the neighbours' rivalry. It would not be favourable for Poland. Similarly, it would not be good for Russia or any other country of the region.

Independent Belarusian state, like any other independent state, should be capable of anything what people expect or demand from their own state - border and territory protection, conditions for economic, social, and cultural development, as well as for pursuit of foreign policy.

Formally, Poland has relevant treaties and agreements with Belarus (on cooperation, borders, etc.). At the OSCE Summit in Istanbul last year Belarus, Poland and some other nations announced that they have no plans to increase their armaments. This is positive, but arouses certain doubts.

The doubts emerge from the following statement: "The unification of Russia and Belarus that has been taking shape on the horizon, could make a happy sequel to the historic East Slavic tradition". This quote is taken from Alexander Solzhenitsyn's "Russia in Collapse". Solzhenitsyn is a great Russian (apparently, this viewpoint is supported by both his advocates and critics). Such people as Solzhenitsyn, and not only him alone, express certain views that are crystallised in the idea of uniting Russian lands. These views require discussion and adoption of a position.

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What has been going on in Belarus in recent years (roughly since 1990) is a gigantic acceleration of what could be defined as acquiring of self-consciousness by the Belarusian people. Regardless of the fact that there are better or worse times, and political systems are liked or disliked, the borders of the new Belarusian state have been defined at least theoretically.

Why Would Belarus' Neighbours Need Independent Belarus?

Still, the problem is reduced to the recognition by the Belarus' neighbours in the region - Russia, the Baltic states and Poland - of the fact that they are concerned with the existence of such strong state entity as Belarus. All these nations have to be interested in Minsk as an independent subject of the international politics.

Why is it beneficial for Poland? One example is that it would be much easier to develop economic relations, which we are very interested in. It is much easier to develop relations with a well-organised Belarusian state, which can be regarded and which can regard itself as an independent and separate entity. Belarusian and Polish economies are, to a degree, of proportio-nate and comparable scale. It is easier to develop and support equal economic relations between partners whose dimensions and economic potential are similar.

As regards these economic relations, it is worthwhile mentioning another aspect. According to some Russian politicians' recent statements, the following fact is obvious. Agreeing to a decrease or absence of the Russian military presence in Central Europe, these politicians began to assert that Russia could maintain its political influence in the region through economic ties.

In this sense, Belarus as an independent nation led by an independent government would be a country seeking , inter alia, an independent economy of its own rather than integrating it into the Russian economic system. Perhaps, this sounds strange against the background of the pronounced tendency towards globalisation while talking about common markets - now already in the Far East and even between America and Europe. Nonetheless, we think that the existence of small and medium economic entities - like nations are in the classical meaning of this notion - is beneficial for everyone. This also concerns cooperation in the general sense. Acting as one of these entities, Belarus could make a very desirable phenomenon.

Future of the Borders

According to the EU Helsinki decision, five nations will start negotiations that open the door to EU membership. Turkey is among these nations along with Lithuania and Latvia. This means that the list of candidates will not be expanded in the near future. This also means a major problem for Poland, as well as for Belarus and Russia. This problem is associated with the borders.

It seems that the EU border, the same as that of NATO will soon lie along the Bug River. The Poles would like it to be a border of cooperation. Yet Poland has to control it, since it does not wish any economic or business standards that differ from the ones that are currently being established there to take root on its territory. Along with that the Poles wish the border to be semi-transparent, so that everything Poland and Belarus agree upon and what is beneficial for the two nations could easily pass through it.

In particular, ideas are getting through borders, and it is probably the hardest job to prevent ideas from crossing the borders. If adjacent states are organised internally according to various ideas, then there is a mutual mistrust arising between the ruling circles of these nations. If we go back to the example of Poland and Belarus, we would see that Poland longing to establish democracy sometimes neither accepts nor agrees with what is going on in Belarus. On the other hand, the authoritarian power in Belarus might feel threatened due to the influence of the democratic ideas that are seeping through the border.

From this viewpoint, it is dialogue that really matters, as well as the resulting rapprochement between representatives of the neighbouring states that differ in the methods of management and organisation of social life. Most likely, we are unable to influence methods of social life organisation. Nonetheless, if such a method is being introduced, it will have practical consequences. If the Belarusian government wishes to act as a really independent subject of bilateral relations, then the necessity for a dialogue should be taken account of.

Official Belarusian representatives stress that they see Belarus as an independent political entity both in the near and far future. This is a positive fact. But the Union of Belarus and Russia - if its contents comply with the spirit and the letter of the Union Treaty - will make the border between Poland (which means NATO and, in the foreseeable future, the EU) and Belarus a de facto Russian border. Such a development cannot raise the level of security in the region.

Practical Issues of the Bilateral Relations

From the Polish standpoint, there are several practical issues that are critical for the cooperation in this region of Europe, the first one being a need for broad agreements concerning the Kaliningrad region. This part of Russia separated from its main territory is an unnatural phenomenon. Its future is not clear.

There are various scenarios aimed at the establishing of economic and cultural cooperation between the EU and the Kaliningrad region planned for the period

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when Lithuania and Poland will have joined the EU. Such scenarios are attractive for Poland and will be supported by it. The only exceptions are projects of a "privileged" transit between Belarus, Russia and the Kaliningrad region through the Polish territory.

The second issue deals with the Poles residing in Belarus. At the Istanbul Summit President A. Lukashenko mentioned some 600,000 Poles in Belarus - unlike Polish government - fully support his authority and the direction of Belarus' development chosen by him. This statement was regarded in Poland as a disguised threat. Many people perceived it as a hint for Warsaw not to "cause" problems and keep in mind that there are 600,000 Poles living in Belarus. Taking into account the fact that there also is a Belarusian minority residing in Poland, the following fact becomes obvious. Irrespective of the statements we hear and their interpretations, good neighbourly relations between Belarus and Poland will be determined, inter alia , by the living conditions of Belarusians in Poland and Poles in Belarus.

* Pyotr Naimski, National Security Adviser to Prime Minister of Poland, Warsaw.

Комментируем публикацию: Agenda of Polish-Belarusian Relations: Problems of the Border, Mutually Beneficial Cooperation and Minorities

© Pyotr Naimski • Публикатор (): БЦБ LIBRARY.BY Источник: Беларусь в мире, 01-01-2000

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