Saturday, July 15, 2023

Tsikhanouskaya Urges NATO to Cooperate with Democratic Belarus Instead of Waiting for the Collapse of Lukashenka Regime

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 12 – The NATO summit in Vilnius was so full of momentous events that declarations which might otherwise have attracted attention and provoked discussion have been largely ignored. One such came from Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the leader of the Belarusian opposition who was elected president in 1920 but not allowed to take office.

            She called for the beginning of “cooperation between NATO and democratic Belarus already now” rather than putting such actions off until the fall of the Lukashenka regime. She suggested that a model for such cooperation is provided by what the European Union has already done (европа/20230711-светлана-тихановская-нато-демократическая-беларусь-сотрудничество).

            “I also call on NATO members to help Belarusian democratic forces and civil society, in particular Belarusia’s independent jurists, investigate Lukashenka’s involvement in military crimes against Ukraine, including the deportation of Ukrainian children to Belarus,” and the identification of those who should face an international court, Tsikhanouskaya said.

            Her remarks came at a side event at the NATO summit that was attended by the foreign ministers of Iceland and Portugal, the state secretary of Finland as well as Lithuanian officials and diplomats. She urged that the Alliance not ignore Belarus and recognize that change there could come “even earlier than in Ukraine” as recent events in Russia have shown.

            Forming a council for cooperation between NATO and democratic Belarus could not only help accelerate such changes, Tskhanouskaya said; but it could ensure that these changes proceed in a good direction and that the Western alliance will be better able to promote its values of democracy there.

            The Belarusian leader did not speak about the possibility of other cooperation arrangements between NATO and democratic movements in anything but democratic countries such as her own. But the logic of her argument points in that direction and, one hopes, will lead some in the Alliance to begin thinking more generally about such arrangements. 

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