President Alyaksandr Lukashenka yesterday firmed up his negative attitude to Yugoslavia’s–in fact, Serbia’s without Montenegro–offer to join the Russia-Belarus Union. Lukashenka called for a joint Moscow-Minsk reply to Belgrade to the effect that “we shall consider this request, but will not make a decision tomorrow and not even the day after tomorrow.” He also mentioned that Yugoslavia “needs to meet a number of conditions and requirements” before its request to Russia and Belarus can be considered.
Lukashenka emphasized that his nyet has nothing to do with the current war, because the impediments to a tripartite union predate the war. He disclosed that President Slobodan Milosevic had raised the issue of Yugoslavia’s accession to the Russia-Belarus Union “long before the war,” but that Moscow and Minsk were only prepared to offer observer status for Yugoslavia in the Union’s Parliamentary Assembly.
The Belarusan president came out also against sending military aid to Yugoslavia. He cited the absence of common borders, the risks involved and his refusal to send Belarusan soldiers to man the air defense weapons that Belgrade has presumably requested. Lukashenka urged that only humanitarian aid be sent to the Serbs in order, as he put it, to substantiate Russian and Belarusan declarations of Slavic solidarity (Russian agencies, April 22).
Lukashenka’s opposition to a tripartite union was predictable (see the Monitor, 13, 15) even before he proceeded to express it as tersely as he did yesterday. That opposition stems from his quest for privileged access to scarce Russian economic resources and for a special role in Russia’s internal political arena, in which Lukashenka can not afford to share the “unifier’s” laurels with a third-party claimant.
RUSSIAN, ARMENIAN AIR DEFENSE FORCES IN JOINT EXERCISE.