Russia and Belarus could end up at war with each other, because Moscow cannot let Minsk pursue an independent policy, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko told the Czech newspaper Respekt in an interview.
“A few years ago I spoke to a few Belarusian journalists, and when I told them officially that if they want to remain independent, they will face the same war, the same difficulties and the same suffering as us, they did not believe me. Perhaps now they doubt less,” said Prystaiko.
“Of course, I still hope that I’m wrong. The Belarusians are peaceful and patient. But we were peaceful and patient people, and that will continue until they start killing you. Then you will also start to kill. Even if your enemy is stronger, what else do you have left?” said the head of Ukraine’s foreign policy department.
When asked whether he had spoken about this to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Prystaiko responded in the affirmative.
“Of course. He himself has on several occasions intimated that the Belarusian military will fight. And our advice is that, if Russia attacks you, you have two options. With the help of your foreign partners, to be reasonable and calm – and lose. Or to start fighting straight away,” said Prystaiko.
Alexey Pushkov, Chairperson of the Information Policy Commission of Russia’s Federation Council, criticized Prystaiko’s remarks, and said that they resemble the style of Ukraine’s previous foreign minister, Pavlo Klimkin.
“The longer Prystaiko holds the position of Ukrainian Foreign Minister, the more he resembles Klimkin. The clear sense that Belarus can expect a war with Russia is a mixture of cheap propaganda and a primitive maneuver aiming to pit Moscow and Minsk against each other. There’s not a whiff of diplomacy here,” wrote Pushkov on Twitter.
In October 2019, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said that the wars of 1812 and 1941-1945, known in Russia as the “Patriotic Wars”, were not Belarus’s wars, and neither was World War I, in which Russia took part.
“Independence – we must plan and create life in our country ourselves. Not have someone tell us what to do, as it used to be – from the Kremlin and so on. Although, of course, Kazakhstan and Belarus have had great independence in this regard. Nevertheless, in some respects we have not had control over our people’s labor, in some respects something’s been missing, in some cases we’ve had to ask for stupid permission, when the decisions should have been made here. There have been many related inconsistencies and problems.
“Now we are handling these matters ourselves. We are directing our own fate. But most importantly, Belarus and Kazakhstan have always been under someone’s whip, as I have often said. Someone has been goading us, someone has been trying to bring us to our knees. Especially in Belarus. All of these wars were not our wars. The Patriotic War of 1812 (the French invasion of Russia), Napoleon went to Moscow and came back through Belarus. Everything was plundered, everything was
destroyed. And then World War I. It reached the point where only a narrow strip remained of Belarus – some of the eastern provinces went to Russia, and the ones as far as Minsk went to Poland according to the Treaty of Riga. And then World War II – for us, the Great Patriotic War. Belarus was entirely wiped off the face of the earth. These were not our wars. We nevertheless ate the bread of affliction. In the last war, we lost one third of our population, mostly civilians. What were the children, the old people guilty of?
“And now we face the facts and have the opportunity to determine our own fate, without causing any damage to our neighbors. Our neighbors – who are from God, we don’t get to chose them – are Ukraine, Poland, the Baltics, and our Russia is a neighbor. Have we caused problems for anyone? No, as a journalist you will never have heard this. It’s our independence, our sovereignty and our responsibility,” Lukashenko told the Kazakh news agency Khabar in an interview.
In July 2018, Lukashenko said that, if its economy fails, Belarus will lose its independence or become embroiled in a war.
“We are on the front line. If we do not get through these years, if we fail, it means that we’ll need either to become part of some other country, or we’ll just get trampled on. Or, God forbid, they’ll unleash another war like in Ukraine,” the Belarusian president said.
He did not state openly which country Belarus would be engulfed by in the worst case scenario.