President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko granted an interview to a staff reporter of the Wall Street Journal. Here are some fragments of the conversation of the Head of the Belarusian State and the American reporter:
- ON THE IDEA TO REESTABLSH THE SOVIET UNION
Reestablishment of the USSR is "absolutely impossible," believes Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. "Yes, some union is possible, but the underlying conditions for it will have to be quite different from those existing in the USSR. These conditions are equality and mutual respect," said the President. He expounded that one could not expect any restoration of the Soviet system; it was rather meant to restore the interrelated economy and preserve the common market. "And why should we loose such a market? It would do good to all the former Soviet republics," believes Alexander Lukashenko.
The President evoked that the USA has very close relations with Mexico and Canada. "There are practically no borders there," he remarked. He stressed that following the pan-European integration process a very close and efficient political and economic union is now being formed. "We wish to live in union with Russia... We would like to have a closer union within the CIS too," said the Belarusian leader.
- ON THE PROSPECTS TO INTRODUCE A POST OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNION OF BELARUS AND RUSSIA
Alexander Lukashenko made it clear that introduction of the post of Belarusian-Russian Union President is possible, but only in a very distant future. "We do not have the Union State of Belarus and Russia as yet," said the President, implying that some agreements of crucial importance are stalled and, what's more, there is no legal framework for the creation of supra-national organs with broad powers.
"Most probably, even if the post of the Union President is introduced, it will happen when myself and Mr. Putin are no longer in office in our countries," A.Lukashenko believes. As to the allegations of some politicians that the Belarusian leader claims to be the Union State head, "they are totally groundless." "When the integration process advances as much that it will require the introduction of the presidential post, neither myself nor Mr. Putin will be involved in the leadership of Belarus and Russia," believes Alexander Lukashenko.
The President especially underscored that Belarus "will never become a part of another state." "We are building an independent sovereign state, which is willing to co-operate with all countries," said the President.
- ON CAUSES OF THE PROBLEMS IN RELATIONSHIP WITH THE USA AND THE EU PARTICIPATING STATES
The Head of the Belarusian State said that the existing relations between Belarus and the European Union member states are "not very good."
Lukashenko believes that one of the main causes behind this is lack of objective information about Belarus and primarily "lack of desire" in some Western circles to get such information. The Western policy with respect to Belarus is based, as a rule, on information obtained from the opposition sources. Whatever the representatives of the Belarusian opposition say is considered objective information in the West, and decisions are taken proceeding from that information, pointed out A.Lukashenko. "But what are they, those opposition leaders? Just thievish and bankrupt politicians. They were defeated by me in the presidential elections: Stanislav Shushkevich in 1994, Vladimir Goncharik in 2001," said the Head of the State.
Following the results of the last year's presidential election, Lukashenko was re-elected for another term of presidency. In view of the Belarusian leader, it is in vain that the heads of the Western states set their minds around the question whether to recognize or not to recognize the election results. He especially emphasized, that rigging the voting results under the circumstances when over two thirds of the population cast their votes in favour of Lukashenko was not possible. "Maybe, there were some mistakes, but how could one rig the voting results given the fact even that there were several thousand foreign and international observers, who visited practically every polling station and about 500 foreign reporters, who were covering the election campaign?" asked the President.
He reminded Belarus was fast to congratulate British Prime Minister Anthony Blair and U.S. President George Bush upon their election. "But they failed to congratulate me... Is this a civilised approach?" asks Lukashenko.
Another large problem in the relations between Belarus with the West is the application of "double standards" when judging undertakings of the Belarusian leadership, went on the source. "The West makes friends with those countries where the freedom of expression does not exist at all, but were there is gas and oil. Why? How is my policy different from the one pursued by Russia's President Vladimir Putin? It is not different at all. Then why is Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin a great friend of the West, while Lukashenko is not?" said the President.
He rebuked the West for funding the Belarusian opposition. "They have allocated funds for developing independent mass media, promoting the civil society. But where is the money? The opposition figures have misappropriated it and now are arguing who has stolen the most," stated Lukashenko.
- ON SOME STATEMENTS OF THE US PRESIDENT
Belarusian President believes that George Bush used "the terminology unacceptable in international relations" when he called North Korea, Iran and Iraq "an axis of evil". "One should not divide states into good and bad. One must look into the matter first. Such statements will not contribute to international stability and relations between the states", said Alexander Lukashenko. He urged American politicians "to be kinder". "The policy of good will only contribute to America", believes the President.
- ON ARMS SALES
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko absolutely denies any accusations of the country's involvement in illegal arms trade.
The head of the state said that Belarusian authorities "never violated international norms for arms trade". A delegation of US congressmen visited Belarus short time ago and had an opportunity to learn about the work of Belarusian companies and meet with Belarusian officials responsible for arms trade. According to the President, American representatives "do not have any questions any more" as they received all the information they had asked for".
President Lukashenko reminded that the possibility of learning the real state of things in arms trade had been earlier offered to Michael Kozak, the US Ambassador to Belarus. Mr. Kozak addressed the Belarusian authorities with reference to mass media reports on Belarus' involvement in illegal arms trade, and requested a possibility to discuss arms trade with "our secret services' leaders". "After that Mr. Kozak did not ask anything", said the President.
The Belarusian leader also denied the reports that the Belarusian military higher educational institutions have trainees from Iraq. "Iraqi experts do not receive any training in Belarus... And they have never before received it... Probably, such practice existed during the Soviet time... But I am not sure about that either...," said the President.
Arms trade is a part of many countries' economies, including the USA. "Belarusian share in arms trade is nothing compared to that of the USA", said Belarusian leader. Belarus does not manufacture such weapons as tanks, machine guns, rockets and bombs. "Belarusian industry produces spare parts for certain kinds of military technology, scopes, mathematical programmes, unique systems for troops control, integrated circuits, including those for space programmes of several states, repairs weapons", said the President. However, "the above mentioned production cannot be seen as purely military orientated. They are rather double focused. In particular, troops control systems can be used the control of space objects". Optical sights for tanks are manufactured jointly with French specialists and exported to Russia and Ukraine.
- ON RELATIONS WITH IMF
Over the last months Belarus "has had the best possible relations with International Monetary Fund (IMF)", Alexander Lukashenko pointed out. "However, we do not take credits from them and are not going to. To support national currency either - we just do not need this credit", the President said. He remarked that "two or three years ago" there was a need in IMF credit. "It was the time when we were switching to single currency exchange rate", Alexander Lukashenko explained. Yet, today there is no such need. "We do not need any credits at IMF terms", the head of the state stated. "Today there is no problem with credits. The agents of management, which need credits, work with banks directly", Alexander Lukashenko remarked.
He pointed out that Kazakhstan was granted IMF credit in its due time. However, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaiev required that the money granted should have been returned to the fund ahead of time, thus having refused from the extremely unprofitable terms, imposed by the creditor.
- ON BELARUSIAN ECONOMIC POLICY
The Belarusian President acknowledged that the economic policy of Belarus slightly differs from that of Russia. "Mr. Putin inherited a country with terrible problems. I do not envy him... Russia has experienced criminal privatization, which creates thousands of grave problems", Alexander Lukashenko said.
"Belarus will never follow Russia's privatization pattern", the Belarusian leader stated.
He stressed that the Belarusian government started the privatisation of major state owned companies. However, it will be based on "fair competition". Part of the shares will be sold to investors from Russia, Ukraine and the West. "The state will keep the controlling stock of strategically important companies at the early stage of the privatisation. If a company is not strategically important, e.g. a construction company, an investor can purchase its controlling stock", said Alexander Lukashenko.
"We learn a lot using mistakes of our friends (privatisation in Russia) and we do not want to repeat them", said the President.
- ON RUSSIAN BEER COMPANY BALTIKA INVESTMENT PROJECT AND ON THE REASONS OF DISCONTINUING FORD PRODUCTION IN BELARUS
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is confident in putting into practice the investment project of Russian brewery Baltika. The project is aimed at investing considerable funds into brewery Krynitsa for modernizing production. Belarusian President mentioned, there was unjustified rush around this project. "We did not cheat on anyone, we did not swindle... we will meet all our commitments. There is no need for any pressure," stated Mr. Lukashenko.
"Baltika began investing into the Belarusian enterprise without signing the necessary agreement with the government," stated the President and called this fact "the highest degree of mutual trust". According to the head of state, Baltika is going to invest $50 million into Belarus, and obtain after that Krynitsa majority ownership in accordance with the agreements. Now the investment volume amounts to $10-15 million. "I am going to ensure support to Baltika. I have promised that," said the President. "We just need to legally sign the agreement. Experts are already working on that," stressed Mr. Lukashenko.
He mentioned that one of the most important conditions of Baltika's work on the Belarusian market is social guarantees to Krynitsa employees. It is not only keeping workplaces but also supporting social services: kindergartens, rest homes.
Lukashenko mentioned the work of Belarusian-Russian holding Slavneft as a positive example of a Russian company working at the Belarusian market. The company, according to the president, has always been helping the state with its problems.
As for discontinuing Ford production in Belarus, Lukashenko mentioned, the managers of the company did not consider the business plan properly. The cars produced by Ford in Belarus were considerably worse than those made by other companies, in quality terms as well as in price, stated Mr. Lukashenko. "Ford left, because it could not stand the competition," stressed the head of state.
- ON IMPRISONMENT OF SEVERAL MANAGERS OF INDUSTRIAL GIANTS
Several managers of large Belarusian industrial enterprises were charged with "corruption and stealing millions of USD" and detained, stated Mr. Lukashenko. These cases, according to him, "do not have any hidden political motives whatsoever".
"If a detainee was absolutely sure of his innocence, he would appeal to me, according to the Constitution," said the President. He stated, up to now none of the detained directors appealed to the President with a request to change the preventive punishment.
- ON HIGH-PROFILE MISSING PEOPLE CASES
Last year about 1,200 people were searched for by Belarusian law enforcers, reported the President. According to him, it is the lowest rate per head in the world. More than 800 people were found, stated Mr. Lukashenko. Among the rest there are the 4 people constantly talked about: the former foreign minister Yury Zakharenko, the former vice prime minister Viktor Gonchar, businessman Anatoly Krasovsky and ORT operator Dmitry Zavadsky.
Mr. Lukashenko pointed out several Belarusian citizens disappeared not long ago on the territory of Poland and Germany. Belarusian authorities have addressed these countries with a request to take measures and look for the missing people. "I can think that these people were killed in Poland and Germany", said the President. He made it clear, nevertheless, he is not going to look for any political motives and blame Polish and German government with creating "death squads" that specialize on obliterating Belarusian citizens abroad. The statements of Belarusian opposition leaders about "death squads" that destroy opposition leaders in Belarus are absurd, says the President. There are about 1,500 people in the Belarusian opposition movement. They can not endanger the present government. Even if there was any dictatorship in our country, it would be clear for a most vehement dictator, that barbarian methods of dealing with the opposition do not make any sense," said Mr. Lukashenko.