We know how to growl at Belarus, but not talk to it

Astravyets Nuclear Power Plant
Astravyets Nuclear Power Plant AFP/Scanpix

Following a decade of no foreign policy-related disputes, currently, we are increasingly hearing unexpected things. The Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS-LKD) unexpectedly started criticizing the Foreign Affairs Minister L. Linkevičius, who during the formation of the government, was hailed as the saviour of the “fertilizers from Russia” government‘s prestige, Mečys Laurinkus wrote in lrytas.lt.

Conservatives liked L. Linkevičius view of Russia as a “cosmic evil”, though some party members did question whether the minister truly thinks the way he talks. The vague L. Linkevičius discussion with a colleague from Belarus seemingly confirmed those suspicions. The TS-LKD is adept at expressing its dissatisfaction. Usually it is heard in all the corners of Lithuania, and often even outside its borders.

I do not doubt that the recent criticisms of L. Linkevičius will reach Brussels as well. Do we not need dialogue with Belarus? In my opinion, we do. Why? Because dialogue is the modern method of preventing undesirable processes. In the previous century, when the processes were still reversible, the dialogue was not used in deference to national egoism and we are feeling the consequences of it to this day.

D. Trump started a dialogue with North Korea, even though everyone made fun of it in the beginning. Though it is unclear how this story will end, the worst prophecies were not confirmed. D. Trump’s messengers are visiting Belarus as well, even though it is no North Korea. D. Bolton had to leave his post not because of “improper behaviour” in Minsk.

It is a well-known secret that the USA cares about China’s goals in Europe, and that includes Belarus. Therefore, while it is not too late, diplomatic steps are being taken. Washington’s and Minsk’s diplomatic ties are on track to be made full-fledged.

And the Astravyets Nuclear Power Plant

Lithuania’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is monitoring developments and, rightly so, making its own conclusions. I am confident this is being discussed with President Nausėda as well. The TS-LKD’s and their close political allies’ fears regarding the obvious danger of Astravyets Nuclear Power Plant and its launch are also reasonable.

However, I do not think that the prevention of the power plant’s launch or the complete scrapping of the project should be the exchange token for dialogue. This kind of exchange would be impossible at this point unless Belarus’ internal, economic and political situation was so dire, that it would collapse without a “normal” relationship with Lithuania.

My view as an observer is that the relationship with Minsk should be moving on two parallel tracks. The first non-hopeless one should progress in the context of small and large road networks. There are signs that Belarus is getting ready for the trip, but whether it will be successful is a different question. Though slowly, the relationship between Russia and Belarus is becoming more and more ambiguous.

Last year, A. Lukashenko received a sharp rebuke from pro-Kremlin experts and commentators. Despite the Belarus Presidents’ acting, relationships with Russia still do not look as they did ten years ago and not in the Kremlin’s favour. Neither Lukashenko, nor Putin is eternal and the world is changing rapidly.

Because I am interested in the processes taking place in Belarus, I am surprised that the colourful relationship with our neighbour (I do not mean the highest political levels, but rather the businessmen and the citizens) is not reflected in our media.

How to fight the Astravyets Nuclear Power Plant?

The alpha and omega of attention have been for a long time the Astravyets Nuclear Power Plant. It is the second and highly complicated relationship route with Belarus. It is also unclear where it will take us.

There are calls to talk and write less and instead focus on the national interest. Without using ambiguous and vague terms, in the words of V. Landsbergis – for survival. I agree.

But what is the weaponry used in the fight? Economic? We will not buy electricity from the devil. What if the next government will change its opinion in a year and a half? Diplomatic? How many allies do we have? Will, the US support us? What about politics? Should we dig a moat in front of Belarus when it decides to join the EU? Maybe even draw the ire of Brussels?

I do not know which method is the most effective. I believe, two things are necessary: a united and clear position and the support of the people. It goes without saying that we need to start the evaluation from ourselves.

And Astravyets Nuclear Power Plant again…

I am in favour of there not being a nuclear plant not only in Astravyets but also in other places, including Lithuania. Why? Because there is no such thing as a completely safe nuclear power plant. It is also a burden and danger to future generations when the time comes to close it, and when it comes to burying the waste. Then there is also the question of climate change and uncertainties that introduces.

In this regards, I support Lithuania’s Green Party even though I am not a member. However, I was not always thorough in my position. Though I voted for there not being a nuclear power plant in Lithuania, I hesitated in regards to the LEO LT project, thinking that if a nuclear plant is quickly built, Russia‘s plans to build a plant in Kaliningrad would have crumbled.

I cannot analyse the positions of other politicians and their thoroughness in regards to Astravyets Nuclear Power Plant because I do not know them. When preparing the referendum on the new atomic power plant, the TS-LKD was assuming that nuclear energy is safe and superior to other types of energy. This can weaken when examining more thoroughly what is meant, the position of the party today.

Nuanced opinions exist among the parties as well, not to even mention society. Of course, it continues to wait, for what the president will say far more specifically. However, if it does not get a response, society may move independently. I think this is the only way – mass protests would make the “highest levels” listen both in Lithuania and abroad.

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