Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 40

President Alyaksandr Lukashenka yesterday described the removal of nuclear weapons from post-Soviet Belarus as “a great mistake,” and suggested bringing nuclear weapons back to Belarus as part of defense arrangements of the Russia-Belarus Union. Lukashenka was speaking to the press on his arrival in Moscow for a CIS meeting. He mentioned the possible renuclearization of Belarus as compensation for NATO’s enlargement and the erosion of the CIS. Lukashenka singled out Ukraine for having “practically stopped being a CIS member” and Georgia for its inclination to quit the CIS Collective Security Treaty. “Shevardnadze should be more cautious when the security of Russia’s borders is involved,” Lukashenka warned (Russian agencies, February 25).

Russia completed the dismantling and removal of nuclear weapons from Belarus in November 1996. Lukashenka has more than once expressed regret over the denuclearization of his country, but his suggestion to reintroduce nuclear weapons represents an unusual corollary to that regret. Also unusual is his direct warning to another CIS country’s president–in this case Eduard Shevardnadze of Georgia–to take Russian geopolitical interests into account. Several days ago Lukashenka issued an oblique warning to Azerbaijan in a similar context (see the Monitor, February 23). Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov and other senior Russian officials received Lukashenka yesterday without any sign of disapproval for those remarks.