We discussed the situation with Russia’s requests for the West, the most important of which concern NATO’s non-expansion, the non-deployment of strike weapons systems in close proximity to the Russian border, and the return of the bloc’s military potential and infrastructure in Europe to the state of 1997 when the Russia-NATO Founding Act was signed.Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin and President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko held a joint news conference following Russian-Belarusian talks
February 18, 2022
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr President, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,
First of all, I would like to express my gratitude to the President of the Republic of Belarus for accepting my invitation and coming to Moscow today.
We understand that the President has a very busy schedule right now, in connection with the necessary preparations for an important domestic event: the upcoming nationwide referendum of the new version of the Belarusian Constitution on February 27. Of course, we wish our Belarusian friends success in holding it.
Let me note that our talks today were held in a constructive, business-like and friendly atmosphere, like we have had for many, many years.
As both sides have stressed many times, Russia and Belarus are good neighbours, close allies and strategic partners. We are deeply connected by a common history, moral values and family ties. Diverse bilateral cooperation is always built on the principles of mutual respect, support and consideration of each other’s interests.
Of course, we have always paid and will pay special attention to the expansion of trade and economic ties. Despite the coronavirus-related difficulties, trade is growing: it increased by more than a third in 2021, or 34.4 percent, and amounted to a significant amount of US$38.5 billion.
Almost half of all products manufactured in Belarus are exported to Russia, and Russia is a leading investor in the real sector of the Belarusian economy. Russian investment accounts for about 30 percent of total foreign investment in Belarus. And we will certainly try to create even more comfortable conditions for the business communities of the two countries and encourage entrepreneurial initiatives.
Of course, matters related to building the Union State and promoting integration within it were among the central topics in our talks with the President of Belarus.
We carefully studied the progress of implementing the strategic decisions approved at the November 4, 2021, meeting of the Union State Supreme State Council. We also discussed efforts to implement the 28 sectoral programmes of the Union and in general the provisions of the Treaty Establishing the Union State. During the talks, we noted that the 28 programmes we are talking about build on our long-standing cooperation and integration efforts in the relevant fields.
Both sides noted that relevant agencies of Russia and Belarus have been working together effectively on promoting integration across the board. The high-level group for coordinating our integration cooperation has been gathering momentum. It held a regular meeting in mid-December.
Our respective governments have also maintained close contact. Let me remind you that our prime ministers held eight meetings last year. In fact, they remain in touch constantly, almost on a weekly basis, if necessary.
Of course, Mr Lukashenko and I keep the implementation of integration-related process under our personal control. We can outline several areas where we have achieved tangible progress recently.
In particular, in the transport and logistics sector there was a significant increase in transits of Belarusian exports in many categories across Russian territory to third countries. We will continue our consistent efforts to build a common freight and passenger market within the Union State.
In the lending and financial sector, we have been cooperating to overcome and minimise the consequences of illegitimate sanctions imposed by some countries with a view to worsening the socioeconomic situation in our countries.
In addition, we have been working on integrating our payment systems and creating a new payment framework, as well as harmonising tax, customs, and labour laws of the two countries, and unifying our markets in the gas, oil, petrochemical, and electric power sectors.
I would like to note that our joint efforts to implement the economic agenda of the Union State are ultimately designed to ensure economic growth and to improve the living standards of our people.
Our other major integration projects have the same goals. I am referring to the Eurasian Economic Union, in the framework of which we are creating a truly common Eurasian market for goods, services, capital and workforce. It is important that all EAEU member states feel the practical effects of these processes.
During our talks today we had an in-depth discussion on strengthening the common defence space of Russia and Belarus. We have agreed to continue taking the necessary collective measures to ensure the security of our two states in light of the growing military activity of the NATO states on the external border of the Union State.
In this context, we praised the Allied Resolve 2022 military exercises, the active phase of which will run until February 20 in Belarus. I would like to point out that these exercises are purely defensive and do not threaten anyone. As you know, the defence ministries of our two states in due time announced the essence and goals of these planned – I would like to emphasise this – planned manoeuvres. As the President of Belarus, who attended them, said today, many foreign representatives and military attachés are attending the exercises and can see the whole thing with their own eyes.
Responding to a request from President Lukashenko, I talked about my recent meetings with foreign leaders on the provision by the US and NATO of long-term and legally binding security guarantees for Russia. We believe it is both logical and understandable that this issue also concerns our Belarussian allies.
We discussed the situation with Russia’s requests for the West, the most important of which concern NATO’s non-expansion, the non-deployment of strike weapons systems in close proximity to the Russian border, and the return of the bloc’s military potential and infrastructure in Europe to the state of 1997 when the Russia-NATO Founding Act was signed.
As I said earlier, unfortunately, the United States and other members of the alliance do not appear ready to sincerely consider these three pivotal elements of our initiative. At the same time, they have advanced a number of ideas of their own concerning European security, specifically, intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles, and military transparency, which Russia is open to discussing. We are ready to continue the negotiation track provided that all items are considered in their entirety, in conjunction with Russia’s main proposals, which are an unconditional priority for us.
President Lukashenko and I touched on the intra-Ukrainian conflict as well. The settlement process remains stalled; despite all our efforts, neither the contacts at the level of advisers to the leaders of the Normandy Format countries nor the consultations with our partners are helping.
Kiev is not complying with the Minsk Agreements and, in particular, is strongly opposed to a direct dialogue with Donetsk and Lugansk. Kiev is essentially sabotaging the agreements on amending the Constitution, on the special status of Donbass, on local elections and on amnesty – on all the key items in the Minsk Agreements. Besides, basically, human rights are massively and systematically violated in Ukraine, and discrimination against the Russian-speaking population is being fixed at the legislative level.
The President of Belarus and I agreed that the Minsk Agreements are the key to restoring civil peace in Ukraine and relieving tension around that country. All Kiev needs to do is sit down at the negotiating table with representatives of Donbass and agree on political, military, economic and humanitarian measures to end the conflict. The sooner this happens, the better. Unfortunately, right now, we are witnessing the opposite – the situation in Donbass is worsening.
In conclusion, I would like to express my gratitude to Mr Lukashenko for our productive cooperation. I am confident that today’s talks will serve to further strengthen the entire scope of allied relations between Russia and Belarus. Tomorrow, as we agreed, we will take part in several regular events related to our joint military activities.
Go ahead please, Mr President.
To be continued.