President Aleksandr Lukashenko, arguably the most pro-Russian leader throughout the former Communist bloc, appears to be taking on a more visible role in advancing Moscow’s strategic interests vis-a-vis Europe. During a meeting in Minsk several days ago with Mikhail Krotov, general secretary of the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly (IPA), Lukashenko spoke out in favor of "coordinating the positions of the CIS countries on the international arena to prevent NATO’s eastward expansion." He called for a similar alignment of positions with respect to the OSCE, "the fight against international terrorism," and other concerns. Krotov was in the Belarusian capital to discussion preparations for the IPA session this month. (8)
The Belarusian president also decried NATO expansion plans during a visit last week by Russian foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov, as he has done on several earlier occasions. In January he expressed interest in redeploying strategic nuclear arms to protect Belarus and Russia. Leaving aside that particular offer — which Moscow rejected — Lukashenko is emerging as a useful tool to turn Russian opposition to NATO expansion into a CIS-wide effort.
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