Stoltenberg: All NATO Allies Have Made Clear They Strongly Condemn “the Lukashenko Regime”
As Tsikhanouskaya urges EU parliament to ramp up sanctions
Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and President Andrzej Duda of Poland met at NATO Headquarters on Thursday to address current security challenges.
The Secretary General highlighted Poland’s commitment to the Alliance, with its many contributions to NATO missions and operations. Mr Stoltenberg also underlined NATO’s strong deterrent presence in Poland, including a multinational battlegroup. “Poland stands with NATO, and NATO stands with Poland”, he said.
The two leaders discussed Russia’s continued military build-up near Ukraine and the situation on the border between Belarus and Poland, Latvia and Lithuania. On Belarus, the Secretary General said: “All NATO Allies have made clear that they strongly condemn the Lukashenko regime’s exploitation of vulnerable people to pressure neighbouring countries. This is inhumane and cynical, and we stand in full solidarity with the Allies affected.”
Mr Stoltenberg said that Russia should use its influence over Belarus to end the situation on the border and that its support for Lukashenko regime is part of a broader pattern of concern.
In an address to the European Parliament on November 24, Tsikhanouskaya urged the bloc to slap more sanctions on the regime of longtime authoritarian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
Speaking to Current Time after her speech, Tsikhanouskaya praised the bloc for its “very courageous” efforts to punish Lukashenka, but called sanctions so far imposed “leaky.”
She urged the EU to take “more decisive actions” to increase pressure “on the enterprises that have been monopolized by Lukashenka and his family,” and step up assistance to civil society in Belarus.
Tsikhanouskaya said that if the EU chooses to “avoid confrontation with a bully, it will only make the inevitable showdown much more costly and dangerous.”
She cautioned the West about the continued threat that the Lukashenka regime would pose to the rest of Europe even in case the migrant crisis is being somehow resolved.
“But do you really suppose it will stop there? We are already seeing how dangerous a regime like this can be to its neighbors. Lithuania and Poland are facing the biggest test of their border security… Supposing this abuse of migrants is somehow stopped, do you really believe the regime’s threats beyond its borders will end there? Increases in the flow of smuggled drugs and other contraband? A military provocation?…None of this is just my imagination. These are threats that the regime itself has made. Whatever it takes to get what it wants.”
She criticized Western media outlets such as Deutsche Welle and BBC for calling Lukashenka “president.”
Speaking to Current Time, the opposition leader said that her understanding of the fifth round of EU sanctions currently under discussion won’t include measures against “those enterprises that provide real assistance to the regime inside the country,” adding, “It remains to be seen.”
She declined to name individual companies but cited “oil factories, potash-fertilizer factories, nitrogen factories, transport companies, wood-processing.”
Tsikhanouskaya also said she was “extremely surprised” by German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s calls with Lukashenka over the border crisis and at Lukashenka’s claim, unchallenged by Berlin, that Merkel had addressed him as “Mr. President.”
She said she “understood why this had been done from her point of view.”
“But from my point of…this [phone call] was something incomprehensible, because for more than a year now, the European Union has been pursuing the policy of nonrecognition of Lukashenka as legitimate, and they have not stepped back from their strategy.”
“Well, such a phone call was very unexpected and strange,” she said.
Source: Radio Free Europe