Union of Russia and Belarus - this is, so far, a weakly integrated formation, which is far behind from the standards accepted in European Union and even in NATO. It is absolutely clear that threat for the Belarusian independence in the union with Russia is far less than the threat for the independence of Poland within the European Union or NATO. Just because of the fact that even on paper the Belarusian-Russian Union is far less integrated formation.
In EU and NATO headquarters in Brussels, we will receive absolutely different answers to the questions, whether such a thing like, let us say, common European foreign policy exists. And that is why it is quite impossible to talk about common foreign policy of the Belarusian-Russian Union. More than that, experts and political scientists in Moscow keep saying that currently there is no such a thing like Russian foreign policy. It is not clearly formulated and nobody takes care of conducting it. In Russia - at least recently - there existed a foreign policy of the President, the foreign policy of the Ministry of Defense, the foreign policy of Ministry for Nuclear Industry, the foreign policy of the State Duma (the Parliament), the foreign policy of the Council of Federation, the foreign policy of each governor and absolutely independent from the state foreign policies of "Gasprom", "LUKoil", "RAO EES Rossii"
Foreign policy of the above mentioned natural resources companies does not have anything in common with Russian foreign policy. For instance, as for the Transcaucasia region, the policy of "LUKoil" corporation is directed to the absolutely opposite direction as compared with the policy of MOD, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs policy is something like balanced approach to this complicated issue. That is why it would be prematurely to say, that today there exist a common Belarusian- Russian Union foreign policy.
In one of his articles in the "Internationale Politik" magazine Mr. B.Geremek writes, that "...other states watch at Russia like at a chess player who, instead of the next move, could simply turn the chess board upside down". To my mind he is not right and at the same time makes compliments to Russian Federation. He is not right because Poland is related to the states, which are observing Russia like described above. And this is because of some specific Polish features. On the other hand, he makes compliments to Russia, because there are simply no persons in Russia, who could have "turned the chess board upside down". Just because of the reason that Russia - by the way, contrary to Belarus - is the state which is not capable of conducting active foreign policy at least so far.
Besides, it is natural that in Belarusian-Russian Union there would not be 100% match of foreign policy interests, priorities and opinions. It is absolutely clear that in the system of foreign policy priorities of Belarus, Poland will always occupy more important place than in the system of Russian foreign policy priorities. On the other hand, it is hard to imagine that in Belarusian system of foreign policy priorities, China will be occupying the same important place as in Russia's. That is why it becomes clear that it is probably simply unwise to talk here about commonness of foreign policy line.
Human Rights Problem in Belarus
In Moscow and in Warsaw there exist a certain difference in the approach to the human rights issue in Belarus. First of all the difference lies in the problem, that Warsaw look at the issue from the common European point of view, and Russia - from the point of view of new independent states. We are living in different surrounding. Democracy currently exist only for 10% of the humanity. The remaining 90% of population, mainly around the Russian Federation, live in conditions of non- democratic order.
Frankly speaking, a foreign policy that is built on the basis of human rights ideals - how they are observed, to what extent the regimes are democratic etc. - is the policy from one hand too idealistic and from the other hand - too non-productive. While Poland, together with other European countries, "punishes" Belarus for non- observation of European human rights standards
and human rights violations, the countries of EU, and particularly USA, are actively and successfully establishing relations with Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and some other states. One can hardly say that in these countries the human rights are observed according to the European standards.
In this regard, I would like to underline that the approach like "whether you observe human rights in the way that we understand it, otherwise we would not develop any type of relations with you" is counter productive. Though the human rights problem, without any doubt, exists, I would like to mention that democratic impulses could come not only from Poland. There are other democratic states, including the Russian Federation.
In Belarusian-Russian Union Agreement there is a lot of statements concerning the necessity of improvement of democratic standards, cooperation in the sphere of human rights observation, other democratic procedures etc. Although one should not expect, that these issues will be resolved immediately in the organization, that has been created only in December last year. But, of course, these problems would be dealt with.
Belarusian-Russian Union Foreign Policy Perspectives
As part of Belarusian-Russian Union, Belarus could be a subject of big politics, as well as Poland, being a member of NATO or EU, also could be subject of global policy. The Union, which has been created last year, consists of two states, international positions of each of them are visibly weak and both of them are obviously falling out from globalization processes. The foreign policy concept on multipolarity, about which we could often hear from our leaders, is the concept, based on the assumption, that the world is monopolar and we should struggle against it. And this approach is not right, starting from its initial point. Presently we are witnessing not monopolar, but a classical multipolar world. We observe the creation of multilevel and highly flexible international system, where priorities are mainly given to the economical problems, which demand multilateral efforts of international institutions.
Success in this system is determined, mainly, by the capacity to integrate into this common global system, possession of advanced intellectual, information and communication capabilities. And, on the contrary states, which are not part of globalization process, are doomed for failure. It is clear that some countries of Africa, Asia and some states of the former Soviet Union are visibly falling out of these processes. These states will not be able to integrate into post-industrial system even in the form of its peripheral elements, natural resources suppliers or industrial base. Unfortunately the perspectives for Belarus and Russia, as well as for their Union, are not bright. We are far behind from globalization processes, falling out from the world communication revolution, sliding down in our intellectual potential.
Our educational system and our highly professional staff in reality could meet the demands of the economy of the year of 1960 or maximum 1980, but not of the beginning of the 21st Century. In comparison with Poland neither Russia nor Belarus have any hopes for integration into new world system through European or Transatlantic institutions - EU and NATO. They are simply neither invited and nor accepted there and will be hardly accepted in the foreseeable future. Nobody proposes any alternatives as well.
Thus, Russia and Belarus are supposed to find their place in this globalizing world by themselves not hopping for any prompts and advises. At the same time, evaluating the common context, in which our countries are situated, it is necessary to acknowledge that there exists the whole set of security problems, which I would like to separate into two aspects: from the point of view of military security and from the point of view of "soft" security, which could be considered as the threat for state's development.
From the military security point of view, traditional geopolitics looses its role. A lot of people are talking currently about that, but, in reality, nobody canceled geopolitics. NATO expansion is a vivid example of a geopolitical decision, which throws a real challenge to Russia, Belarus and their Union. No doubt, nobody considers NATO as a real military threat, but potential expansion of this organisation could be dangerous in three aspects.
First. This is, of course, a growing potentials misbalance, overwhelming NATO superiority over any state or any group of states of the region in all (without any exceptions) types of armaments. This superiority will be growing because of the United States plans to increase their military spending. Moreover, this increase will be measured by the money, which significantly outnumber GDPs of Belarus and Russia. And it is natural, when right at your borders appears and grows significantly stronger military block, into which your state is not invited, it will not increase a feeling of safety.
Second aspect of potential danger is connected with the NATO new strategic concept, which does not contain any self-limitations into it and, in the whole, again returns military power to the instruments of foreign policy. In the beginning of 1990s there were a lot of talks, that significance of military power is dropping. With the NATO's new concept one could talk about return of the
old approach. Relatively successful use of military power by NATO in Iraq, Yugoslavia, and less successful - in Afghanistan, Sudan and East Timor, expansion of Alliance, extending the areas of its responsibility, ignoring the UN authority - we clearly observed that in the Yugoslavian conflict - all this allows us to talk not only about use of military force by NATO as a legitimate political instrument, but also about block's unpredictability and lack of criteria for the use of military force.
After Kosovo a lot of people asked the same question: "Who is the next after Yugoslavia?" This question increased fear in the countries, which due to some reasons have an apprehension that they could be the next in NATO's list for the so- called humanitarian intervention. And it is absolutely natural that in order to avoid such a situation some of these countries, bordering on Belarus and Russia started to intensify modernization and build up of their armed forces.
No doubt, further expansion of NATO, especially after entry into this organization of a number of states which are provoking groundless tension in relations with Russia - first of all, Baltic states - could also create additional dangers. Absolutely obvious, that NATO expansion into the Baltic States will create a first class crisis in relations between the Union of Russia and Belarus and the West.
Serious set of dangers to the military security is emerging currently in connection with the problem of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The number of members of Nuclear Club almost doubled after the end years of the Cold War. Among new members there are India and Pakistan. It is a well known fact that North Korea and Israel also have nuclear weapons. Iran and a group of Latin America's countries are "standing in line".
Unfortunately we can say, that right now there appeared a very strong incentive for the development of nuclear weapons and one of the reasons is to protect oneself from the so called humanitarian intervention.
And of course at this background quite threatening looks the danger of collapse of armaments control regimes. As for the "soft" dangers to the Belorussian-Russian Union, they are in reality more substantial and there are more of them. First, here is without any doubt a possibility of isolation of Russia and Belarus and their Union. In globalization conditions of today's world it is hard to underestimate the meaning of this threat. One could hardly find more dangerous threat in today's world than international isolation of the state.
We observe that currently the role of organizations, where we have a vote, is diminishing. These are the UN, UN Security Council, OSCE. At the same time the positions of organisation where we are not represented and they simply do not allow us to join them are strengthening. NATO expansion will be continued. Expansion of EU will be also going on, but without us.
Factors Influencing the Formation of Union's Foreign Policy
One could say, that EU expansion is simultaneously a challenge and an opportunity. Opportunity from the point of view that, no doubt, approaching of well- off and stability zones to the borders of Belorussian-Russian Union - this is a positive development. In this context Poland could become a very important outpost in relations of Belarusian-Russian Union with EU.
European Union remains our main trade partner. EU expansion will be very beneficial, if Russian and Belarusian companies will manage to consolidate their positions in East European markets.
At the same time EU expansion will create conditions for possible isolation from the point of view of new economics rules, additional customs and visas barriers. In the short-term perspective losses are absolutely inevitable. Of course, NATO and EU expansion will make the situation around Kaliningrad more complicated. We will not get rid of manifestations of economic isolation manifestation, which currently can be seen in the West. First of all these are anti-damping procedures, closure of certain Western market segments for Belarusian and Russian products, lack of loans, reduction in investments etc.
In the West, including Poland, a stable image of Belarus and Russia as of unpredictable states with the "wrong" regimes is forming. It creates a ground for Belarusian-Russian Union isolation.
Another set of problems is connected with the danger of self-isolation and one should nod underestimate them. Unfortunately we can see the fact that today in Russia an anti-Western rhetoric is on the rise. There exists a whole oligarch group, particularly a group of B. Berezovsky, longing for Russia's isolating so that nobody from the outside world could dominate the Russian market. Both in Belarus and Russia there are no strategies for attraction of investments not only from the outside, but also from the national sources. Such a factor like war in Chechnya also has its influence. In our countries very popular are foreign policy concepts in which the main place is occupied by the ideas of isolation and use of its own forces. The Union does not have economic cooperation strategy with the outside world. There is also lack of strategies for integration into world's information and telecommunication space, there is no information policy with regard to outside world.
What Should Be the Union's Foreign Policy
What conclusions could be made from the point of view of Belarusian-Russian Union future foreign policy, international relations policy, security policy? No doubt, foreign policy should be viewed as a strong
resource for the internal development of member-countries of the Union. Following the strengthening of the role of military force in the world, the Union should maintain and keep armed forces on the level of defense sufficiency. It is impossible to keep military parity in the sphere of conventional armaments with NATO and West European Union because of purely economic reasons. That is why in the foreseen future the main instrument for the Union's security provision will be nuclear weapons. And, probably, Russia will provide Belarus with nuclear guarantees.
Because of the same reasons of economic character, integration of military production complexes is more than necessary. This is absolutely important and will allow us to decrease expenditures for keeping the defense efficiency and carry on coordinated policy on the world's armaments markets. Russia and Belarus are not interested in the arms race, especially in nuclear weapons proliferation. Naturally, both countries will be in favor for nuclear weapons proliferation ban and conventional armaments reduction.
Relations with NATO is a complicated issue. On the one hand, neither Belarus nor Russia have any reason to see NATO enlarged. That is why it is quite obvious that the Union will continue to object and to oppose such an enlargement. On the other hand, with NATO transforming into a de-facto common European security system, and because of the impossibility to resolve any security problem without NATO participation, it is necessary to restore NATO-Russia dialog. This process is inevitable as well as participation of Belarus in this process.
Reduction of dialog with NATO or its cancellation produced a very unpleasant side effect. In reality it meant a sharp reduction of dialog with Europe, while we continued relations and dialog with the USA.
The philosophy of Belarusian-Russian Union's approach to the international issues could be the following: search for benefits, first of all economic benefits, and not only adequate response to challenges and threats in the sphere of traditional security. One of the main parts in this approach could be recurring of certain positions in future globalizing world, instead of trying to defend our present positions.
From the point of view of such a philosophy, European vector of foreign policy is the main and determining for the Union, regardless of the problems which currently exist in EU. European Union has not been a generator of serious political initiatives. The reason for that is rather slow rate of economic growth in European states as compared with the US and Asian countries, internal European issues, including those of expansion. But, nevertheless, EU is the largest economic and political power near the borders of Russia and Belarus.
The EU, on the whole, is ready for activation of contacts and establishment of closer relations, at least with Russia. Naturally it will potentially allow the EU to strengthen its competitive positions in the world. Today there are possibilities to start systematical dialog and strategic rapprochement with EU. Recently experts and intellectuals mentioned that fact at a "Russia-EU" forum, which took place in Berlin.
Conceptual base for such cooperation exists. It is included in the common EU strategy in relation to Russia, which was adopted in June last year, and also in the document "Strategy of the Development of the Relations Between Russia and EU for the Mid-Term Perspective for the Years of 2000-2010". This concept was presented by Mr. Putin's government in autumn of 1999. It is obvious that Belarus should not fall out from the process of East European countries integration with EU. One of the important priorities of Belarusian-Russian Union foreign policy, if such a policy is to exist at all, should become a support for advancement of Russian and Belarusian businesses in international markets.
From this point of view, role of Poland could be very important. Even today almost 80% of trade between Russia and Western Europe, which is our main trade partner, is going through Belarus, further through Poland or Baltic states. The role of Belarusian communication route will be ever more increasing. It is clear that the role of Ukraine and Ukrainian routes will de decreasing, because "rules of the game" do not observed there.
Foreign policy of Belarusian-Russian Union should be subordinated to the task of searching and attraction of foreign investments. Here we are mostly talking about improvement of national legislation. This is, by the way, foreseen in the Union Agreement, one of the articles of which reads about coordination of economic legislation, including laws for regulation of international economic operations.
The role of Poland in this respect will be minimal, because today Poland itself is mainly "digesting" investments, but do not make foreign investments. But when the Polish investments will be available we should welcome them.
We should pay more attention to the struggle with organized crime. Both countries - Russia and Poland have interest in that. In Poland there are a lot of groups, which are, without no reason, called "Russian mafia". This is mostly because of misunderstanding. In Poland there are much more representatives of Azerbaijani, Chechen and other criminal groups, but they are called, nobody knows why, "Russian Mafia". From the other hand we also have problems, because recently Poland become one of the main, if not the principal, sources of illegal drugs suppliers for the Russian market.
Belarusian-Russian Union should be interested in the maximal preservation of prestige and significance of the organizations, where its members have opportunities to express their opinion and defend their rights. First of all these are the UN and OSCE. But the main task for
Russia and Belarus is to develop and implement a set of measures for the Union's integration into the world's community. Without this we will condemn ourselves for the role of world's periphery. To do everything relying only on our own forces is a wrong concept and a way to nowhere. Russia and Belarus will have future only if they are on the common "highway" of world's development, but not on its side tracks.
* Vyacheslav Nikonov , President of the Polity Foundation, Moscow.