Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 37

Interviewed by Iranian television in Minsk yesterday, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka urged the formation of a political, military and economic alliance of Russia, Iran, India and China–with Belarus tagging along–“as the counterweight to the United States and NATO.” Only such an alliance could return the “American-dominated, unipolar world” to the “multipolar world which disappeared with the Soviet Union,” Lukashenka stated. He reproached the West in general and the United States in particular for: (1) striving to include Poland and the Baltic states in NATO, in order to reach the borders of Russia and Belarus; (2) extending U.S. influence in the South Caucasus as a way to physically separate Russia from Iran; (3) restricting Iran’s access to modern technologies; (4) using force in the Balkans and elsewhere; and (5) generally for “uncivilized behavior, which would have been inconceivable when the USSR existed.”

Apart from recommending an Eastern alliance against the West, Lukashenka singled out Azerbaijan as a possible object of retaliation because of its offer to host NATO troops. He urged Russia, Iran and “other regional states which border on Azerbaijan to adopt a really tough position, so that NATO troops never enter Azerbaijan.” The unnamed neighboring state is evidently Armenia, and the explicit threat to Azerbaijan may also be read as an implicit one to Western-oriented Georgia.

Lukashenka said that he wanted Iran to become “a superpower at the beginning of the next century… not bowing to anyone.” He offered to expand Belarus-Iran cooperation “not only in economics but also in other areas,” “trading in all types of goods that might be of interest to Iran.” These formulae sounded like deliberate allusions to military sales (Itar-Tass and other Russian agencies, AP, February 22).

While somewhat raving in their form, Lukashenka’s remarks actually reflect trends in, and perhaps even tactics of, Russian foreign policy. Proposals for cooperation with Iran, China, India and “Slavic” Belarus and Serbia on an anti-Western basis emanate from Russia from mainstream circles (see the Monitor, February 5). Even Lukashenka’s bete-noire Boris Berezovsky is on record as suggesting a Russia-Iran alliance. The Belarusan leader plans to visit Iran shortly.

As regards arms deliveries to Iran or other rogue states, Lukashenka recently denied any such intent. His sudden allusion to that possibility looks like a deliberate change of signals in response to a dynamic international situation. The signal may be Moscow’s and may suggest that Belarus is usable as a proxy for arms deliveries to anti-Western states, if the West does not accommodate Russian diplomacy in the contests over the Balkans, the South Caucasus or the Persian Gulf.–VS