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Transcript of the interview of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus V.Makei to the TV channel “Belarus 1”

"Belarus 1": Hello Vladimir Vladimirovich! First of all, tell us what time the Minister of Foreign Affairs usually arrives for work and what time does he leave?

V.Makei: You know, we have irregular working hours. Some unexpected things can happen at night. As it was, for example, during a pandemic, when we had to evacuate our citizens, trapped in difficult situations. So we had to deal with these issues at night. I can’t say, that we have a well-regulated working day. But I usually arrive at eight o'clock, and leave after having sorted out the stack of documents on my desk. Of course, you need to spend some time with your family, which also gives you an incentive to work.

"Belarus 1": Have you got more work in the last six months? After all, we’ve been "shacked" from all sides.

V.Makei: Every time goves its tasks for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Each time was difficult in its own way. When the world financial and economic crisis broke out and exports fell, and it was necessary to intensify our foreign economic activity. Then there were other moments. I would not say that the amount of work has increased too much, but of course there were more unpleasant moments associated with, unfortunately, destructive activities of our European partners and opponents who found themselves abroad.

I’d like to quote the late Deputy Foreign Minister Mr. Oleg Kravchenko, whom I consider an outstanding diplomat. Last fall, he said: "How interesting it has become to work".

I mean, yes, we are “shaken”, most likely deliberately “shaken”, claiming to support our sovereignty and independence. In fact, these people should clearly understand that they are undermining Belarus and the state itself. There are some new moments, challenges to which we must respond. But, nevertheless, this is an interesting work, which is aimed at ensuring that the caravan continues on its way.

"Belarus 1": But the Foreign Ministry can show its teeth, as they say. Here's a good example - a recent response to the American Embassy. The resonance was truly multivectoral. In the East, this answer was called a masterpiece by the press secretary of the Russian Foreign Ministry Mrs. Maria Zakharova. In the US, Professor Joffe praised your staff for their excellent sense of humor. How such comments are being prepared? Who is the author?

V.Makei: Showing teeth or showing claws is not the style of Belarusian diplomacy. And we do not intend to act in the spirit of, let’s say, the old Soviet times or the times of the Cold War, when we portrayed each other as - there was such a phrase - "the beastly grin of imperialism." We are absolutely peaceful people - this is even said in our hymn. And we have never been aimed and will never be aimed at bringing the situation to some kind of conflict confrontation.

With regard to this statement, which really caused a certain response, and the fact that so much attention was paid to it, from my point of view, it means that we hit the target. We only wanted to demonstrate the absurdity of the situation.

If you’ve mentioned, a significant part of the statement is taken from the American statement. Only the words “Belarus” and “Belarusians” are replaced by the words “USA” and “Americans”. And, as it turned out, the assessment of the situation is absolutely identical. This means, that our partners, accusing Belarus of something, forget to look in the mirror. We must adequately assess the situation. Therefore, I repeat once again, we wanted to show the absurdity of this time, when someone - in the overwhelming majority of cases, absolutely unfounded - claims and accuses Belarus.

"Belarus 1": Who is the author?

V.Makei: There is a system of preparation of such statements. If there are any events that require a response, we usually gather at my office – the employees who is dealing with the region, the press service, of course. We discuss the form of presentation, the content of certain materials, we even discuss possible arguments. And then the performer directly works on the preparation of specific material. At least two performers worked on this material, then the final vision was also discussed at my level. And such a work appeared. Therefore, I would say that yes, a specific performer is working, but still this is a collective work. Moreover, any kind of statement must be carefully checked and discussed, and I was taught in this way, that such things should be discussed collegially, collectively. And only then they will become meaningful. And emotional.

"Belarus 1": While holding a meeting this week, the President, began with the topic of optimizing the Foreign Ministry. If we talk about the number of employees of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs how do we look like comparing with other similar countries?

V.Makei: Once I saw one Ukrainian study, which observes the number of civil servants per capita. So, in the UK and Germany, one civil servant, let's say so, “serves” 164 people. In France - 133. We have - 255. We are a small, "compact" country, so we cannot afford a bloated staff.

Comparing with the same, in terms of population and of the size, countries - Austria, Hungary, Sweden - we have a much smaller apparatus of the diplomatic service. Approximately two times less than in Austria, several times less than in Hungary and in Sweden.

I think that one should get over not by number, but by skill. We have created a system where about thirty embassies work in the format of “mini-embassies”, where there is one head of a foreign mission and two employees. We have organized the work in such a way that they cope with their functional duties and, if they work responsibly, they achieve the goals set for them.

“Belarus 1”: Over the last few days, there is a big discussion about the reduction of our representation in some countries. Many different versions were sounded. So where will we, after all, reduce our presence, and where will we increase it?

V.Makei: I have read carefully all the information that has appeared on the Internet and print media. In some situations, we can generally speak of some kind of bacchanalia that unfolded after the meeting. The level of attention paid to this meeting shows, that the diplomatic service of Belarus plays an important role, and they are also trying to shake it, hoping that this will serve as some kind of signal for other departments.

But, coming back to our response to the statement of the US Embassy, I noticed that some former employees of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs reacted in this way: "when we were at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, highly qualified specialists worked there". That could be read so that "we - the greats - have left, and there is nothing left there".

I want to reassure them: our employees, highly qualified, work normally. And young people come, intelligent, very educated, with several higher educations. Therefore, the diplomatic service of Belarus is alive, lives and will live, will continue its traditions.

As for the second part of the question, the optimization of foreign missions and the central office is a regular process. Times are changing, the situation in some countries is changing, somewhere there is instability, especially if you take the African and Latin American continents. The political environment is changing. And we have to react to all these things. I repeat, we are a small country, we don’t have geopolitical ambitions, phantom pains. The President has said many times on this: we only want to live peacefully, to trade with those countries that are ready to work with us. Therefore, we are constantly looking at how our relations are developing with certain countries on this or that continent.

Indeed, if we see that for several years there has been no return, primarily in terms of foreign economic activity, then we discuss these issues in the Government, together with other departments, with the Presidential Administration, the State Secretariat of the Security Council, and make appropriate proposals to the President. Therefore, there was nothing sensational in this meeting. It was a normal, ordinary, pre-planned meeting, at which the strategy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' activities in foreign markets was discussed. And, of course, the proposals that we worked out together with the Government and other structures were supported by the Head of State, and we will work in this direction.

As for specific countries, I won’t name them now. Because, before opening a foreign representation, we have to do a lot, to get the consent of the authorities of this or that state. But as a result of the optimization that we will carry out, our diplomatic presence will not decrease. I have already mentioned some things - about the creation of new consulates general in Mumbai, Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong. This is also very important taking into account our presence in these markets.

"Belarus 1": Now the topic is more acute. The way Western neighbors are behaving lately is no longer just interference in internal affairs, it is already concrete actions to destabilize the situation in our country. We can even call it the support for extremism at the highest level. What will be our measures regarding Poland, Lithuania?

V.Makei: We have never talked about and did not engage in any activities aimed at undermining our relations with other states, primarily with our neighbors. We are only forced to react to those destructive statements and steps that are being taken in relation to Belarus by our western neighbors.

Even during the Cold War, traditional diplomacy played its part, everyone adhered to the principles of traditional diplomacy. Now, in my opinion, there is an absolute departure from these principles. It is what the Russian political scientist Fyodor Lukyanov recently called "the triumph of a tongue without bones". Just imagine this - one head of state brings charges against another head of state for, in fact, crimes against humanity. Formerly, this would have led, unambiguously, at least to an armed conflict in relations between these states. And now it turns out that one bulldog barked, some mongrels pulled out in support - and that's all. Yes, some statements followed, but no one is responsible for absolutely hypocritical and cynical actions and statements.

Those claims that are brought against us are absolutely unacceptable for us. Moreover, they harm the development of the state, statehood and harm the development of society. Therefore, of course, we have to and will have to react to this. I am generally surprised - our partners are trying to use the national factor, the cultural factor, and the historical factor here. They are ready to pull any strings, just to remove the objectionable "regime".

We should not repeat the mistakes of the past, the "regime" is strong and it will stand. Therefore, it is necessary to build relationships based on this fact. There is no need to strive to organize any revolutions here. This won’t lead to anything good. Moreover, this will unambiguously lead, if the situation continues to escalate, to the fact that there will be no civil society about which our European partners are so concerned.

We see that such a policy of the European establishment does not find support even in the civil society of these countries. Just recently, your TV channel announced figures on how many Lithuanians disagree with the authorities' policy towards Belarus - about 66%. The same is true for other countries.

Someone may be mischievous of this situation, but the number of applications for accession to the Belarusian citizenship has increased. From western countries. We are now summarizing this information and will report to the Head of State to take some measures, possibly, on accelerated procedure for granting citizenship.

I understand why this is happening. First of all, probably because the pandemic situation affected. But at the same time, no citizen of a Western country would travel to an unstable country or an unsafe country. Therefore, such appeals are based on concrete and compelling reasons.

Coming back to your question. We will react, of course, to such destructive actions, but we will never take any steps aimed at making our peoples quarrel. We are interested in developing all-round cooperation, first of all with our neighbors, which, as the President says, are given to Belarus by God. But we, of course, will not leave unanswered those negative and destructive actions that our partners on the external circuit are trying to take.

“Belarus 1”: By the way, one of those examples is that Poland took on the heroization of war criminals, which was the last straw. In your opinion, what goals Warsaw is pursuing here? Is this also one of those strings?

V.Makei: These actions, which were committed on the territory of Belarus, are not just doltish. I don’t understand at all how anyone could have thought of organizing such events in our country, which lost a third of its population in World War II, honoring so called heroes, who are considered criminals in our country. And they are absolutely rightly considered criminals. It is clear that we were forced to take decisive measures in response and ask to leave several consular officers who participated in such events.

Now, when we began to study this issue more deeply, very interesting things have emerged. More than five hundred different firms here, through a loophole in our legislation, were engaged in so-called educational activities according to those templates and rules that are absolutely alien to our society and are absolutely not perceived in Belarus. Therefore, of course, we will be forced to further study this issue and take specific measures related to putting things in order in our legislation, closing such loopholes.

Moreover, there is clear confirmation that a number of destructive structures and a number of specific individuals, who were engaged in destructive activities, received funding from abroad. Now our respective structures - the Prosecutor General's Office and the Investigative Committee - are dealing with this issue.

We understand the goals, and the President said this at the meeting. Most likely this is due to the development of the internal political situation in Poland. Everything is not so simple there. And whenever we use the argument “why do you say things that harm our relations” - and I mean not only Poland, but also a number of other countries – they tell us “well, you understand, we have an internal situation here, we have here the media, paying attention to this. So let’s do this: we will declare some tough things, but you do not pay attention to it”. But we also have an internal situation to which we must also pay attention. Therefore, we will react very harshly to any manifestations associated with the glorification of Nazism, fascism and their accomplices.

"Belarus 1": By the way, the documentary "Mankurt". You've probably watched this movie. It reveals the actions of foreign special services. Was the Foreign Ministry involved in this operation?

V.Makei: No one will tell you whether the Foreign Ministry was involved. But I liked this documentary. I want to say that it is made soundly, it is not just for nothing that it caused certain emotions on the other side. It seems to me that it testifies the high professionalism of our special services. Hopefully, that they continue to act so effectively and react to the actions that are being taken against Belarus from abroad.

I am looking at this a little more broadly. I saw who is who of those Belarusian citizens who fled to the West, in terms of human qualities and what they are. I have not seen such a decline for a long time. In certain countries they are depicted as heroes or revolutionaries who are trying to implant democracy in Belarus. No democracy implanted from the outside will be real democracy. It will be a dictatorship that will be even stronger than the communist dictatorship. They blame us that we have a dictatorship, and this will in fact be a fascist dictatorship, if these "revolutionaries" come to power.
So we need to think about how to move forward in an evolutionarily way, without trying to organize revolutions in our countries. Moreover, our neighbors should not try to organize a revolution in Belarus.
“Belarus 1”: Coming back to this film and to this situation in general. Were there any attempts by foreign special services to recruit our diplomats?

V.Makei: Diplomats are the bearers of state secrets. Upon admission to the diplomatic service, they receive the admission to the secrets of the corresponding level. And this is absolutely justified and understandable, because they work with various kinds of documents - from top secret to documents for official use only. Therefore, of course, the interest of the special services of any country in the diplomats of another country is absolutely justified.

American diplomat and writer Charles W. Freeman once said that diplomats are declared spies, and spies are often undeclared diplomats. And I think this phrase speaks for itself. Therefore, the attention of special services to diplomats of any countries is completely understandable.

There were attempts to recruit our diplomats, administrative and technical staff in some countries. But the persons concerned turned out to be at their best, informed their leaders, and as a result, we were forced to take appropriate actions to ensure their safety. Naturally, we do not advertise such cases, but we always state appropriate protests to the other side.

“Belarus 1”: Let's get back to the meeting. Expectedly, it, just like many other things, was overcasted with fakes. Here is what some telegram channels wrote, I will quote: "The Foreign Ministry lost in the power and ideological struggle", "political contacts are at zero, trade is under sanctions", "embassies are being optimized to trade and consular services," and so on. Tell us what kind of power struggle you have there, and most importantly - with whom?

V.Makei: These phrases, which were used after this meeting, indicate that these people judge by themselves. Obvious, that they are fighting for resources, for leadership, for who will be the first. They have certain political ambitions. Therefore, they want to transfer this to the Belarusian soil.

The goal is clear. To show that there are two or several "camps" in the management of Belarus, which are squabbling among themselves and which are "ready to bite each other's throat". Of course, if this falls on unformed soil, falls into some kind of young consciousness, then they can believe it. And the result is to show that the authority is weak, that it is about to collapse, that there is no unity, and "this regime has no future".

I have to disappoint those who think in this way. We work very closely with all partners in all other ministries, with colleagues from other structures. And especially, if we are talking about making some decisions related to upholding the interests of the state, then we pay special attention to this and carefully calculate all possible consequences of this or that proposal and decision.

Sometimes we make proposals that may not be supported by the Government or the Presidential Administration. And vice versa, some of the proposals made by our colleagues may not be supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. But this is a normal process, when various kinds of proposals are discussed, solutions are developed, and then these decisions are formalized. After a decision has already been made, then it is already necessary to carry out this decision, even if you do not agree. This is the essence of the diplomatic service, and of any public service in general. Therefore, there are some debatable things - this is a normal process in the course of making a decision. But, believe me, there are absolutely no power games. In any case, I have never done this in my personal biography and am not going to do it.

"Belarus 1": Our other neighbor is Ukraine. How do you assess the rhetoric of the official Kiev - starting with the fact that it was ordered not to call the President Alexander Lukashenko as President, ending with the fact that Ukraine refused the Belarusian platform for negotiations? Although the words of Volodymyr Zelenskyy are still fresh in memory when he thanked our President for such a format.

V.Makei: Indeed, there are amazing metamorphoses with our southern neighbors. Only Belarusian people can determine who is the president in the country, this should not and cannot be determined from the outside. And watch it: today no one argues that Alexander Lukashenko won the election. The only question are figures – are they right, or wrong. But the fact remains: Alexander Lukashenko won and was elected as the President of Belarus. But for us it is absolutely unacceptable when some people from the outside, based on the statements of these fugitives, transfer this to the practical sphere of relations with Belarus.

Ukraine “paused” relations with Belarus. It is both funny and sad to hear about this, as if this pause would prohibit people from communicating, forms a pause between nations. We will never allow ourselves this and will never stoop to it.

The Ambassador of Ukraine is constantly texting me that this or that Belarusian TV channel has submitted information about Ukraine very harshly. Something like, this should not be so, it is unacceptable in relations between the two states, and so on. But, in fact, I understand you, journalists, when Ukrainian TV channels, mass media make absolutely unfounded, harsh statements on Belarus, on the edge of an insult. Sooner or later, they will probably have to face the adequate answer. I do not advocate, in general, this kind of attitude and presentation of information. I believe that, of course, everyone should behave with dignity and, moreover, a decent level of information presentation causes more trust and respect. But the fact remains that, again, we had to react to the things that were said by our neighbor.

I repeat it once again, we are interested in the development of the entire range of our relations with Ukraine - trade, economic, political and cultural. We also have a common border of 1,084 kilometers. We must treat it as a border of peace, and not the border of discord. Moreover, in December of this year we will celebrate the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations - and with what baggage will we come to this date?

As for the statement of Mr. Kravchuk. The President has said many times that we did not impose ourselves to be any kind of mediator. And we did not impose ourselves on this process, in which we were involved at the request of Ukraine, Germany, Russia, and France. We absolutely conscientiously carried out the duties that we were asked to do: ensuring the work of the Trilateral Contact Group (organizational, protocol, and technical). And there were no complaints. There was a gratitude from the Ukrainian side, from Russia, and from the OSCE. And there are documents in this regard.

This kind of bacchanalia around this statement speaks of the unwillingness of certain Ukrainian politicians to comply with the agreements that were reached in Minsk. It doesn't matter where these meetings take place. Even if they take place in Antarctica, the main goal is to achieve a concrete result – to stop any fights in the east of Ukraine. And this proposal of Mr. Kravchuk sounds ridiculous to me: “we should hold meetings of the Trilateral Contact Group in a neutral country, for example, in Poland”. I don't know where Mr. Kravchuk is from, but this joke is worthy of the pen of the late Odessa citizen Mikhail Zhvanetsky. No one can find a more "neutral" country in the whole world than Poland.

I will repeat myself. We were not chasing the laurels of peacekeepers. We were asked to assist in resolving the crisis in eastern Ukraine, and we tried in good faith to comply with this request. If they do not want to work further - please let them look for another place. But this is not about that, these are all certain tricks. The point is that all parties should be sincerely interested in an settlement of the crisis in eastern Ukraine as soon as possible, and not in attempts to bypass the Minsk agreements, among other things.

"Belarus 1": How could you comment the actions of some destructive groups, including those from abroad, of such pseudo-patriots who are doing everything to interfere with economic cooperation of Belarus - to break contracts and so on. Here is a recent example of MAZ in Lviv. I think this is not the only example. How do you assess this, and how to deal with it? Then all the telegram channels are having fun: wow, they interfered with cooperation.

V.Makei: I am trying to understand their way of thinking. But I must agree with you - it is sad that they are having fun, that the people are getting worse. Any further tightening of sanctions will lead to the fact that civil society will cease to exist. And this, I believe, will be absolutely justified in this situation. The civil society they "care about"!

In my opinion, those people who are now calling for sanctions against their own people are committing a crime against their own people. I believe that this is how it should be considered.

The health resort in Druskininkai has already been mentioned many times. Or the company "Amkodor", that produces the road construction equipment, logging and so on. What about the sufferings of its ten thousand workers? Or let’s talk about this company, which is building the "Minsk World". Even in this difficult time, pandemic time, they found an opportunity to provide apartments to people in need at a discount. And they impose sanctions against it. Tell me, is it normal? Is it humane from the point of view of a sane person? I don't think so. But, nevertheless, the relevant persons who fled to the West are proposing such actions in the hope that life in Belarus will become poor, that they will not pay salaries and the people will go to the streets and sweep away this "hated regime". Well, what's next? What will be left if such a hypothetical revolution take place? Ruins will remain, from which Belarus, most likely, will no longer rise. And Belarus is unlikely to exist as a state, and we are unlikely to talk about Belarusian statehood. I am deeply convinced of this.

Therefore, I hope that these boys and girls, who are calling for sanctions against their own people, will finally come to their senses and think. And if we are to fight, then we must fight with worthy political methods.

“Belarus 1”: An example of friendly relations is the cooperation between Belarus and India. We have long-standing ties and cooperation with this country. The President met with the Ambassador of this country this week. What are new points of contact already found?

V.Makei: I absolutely agree with you that cooperation with India is a good example of such equal, worthy interaction, despite the different weight of our states. In India there are more than 1.3 billion people, and ten million in Belarus - of course, the level is incomparable. But, nevertheless, we have a lot of projects in almost all spheres and areas in which both parties are interested. We are implementing a number of projects in the pharmaceutical sector with the participation of Indian companies. We implement joint projects in the mining sector and supply our equipment, BELAZ vehicles, we work both in the field of IT technologies and in the field of education. The President met with the Ambassador, and there is an agreement that it is necessary to intensify interaction in the healthcare sector, especially taking into account the pandemic situation. India has already developed two vaccines and offered us to use them to vaccinate our people. There are a number of other projects that were discussed at the meeting with the President. Concrete agreements were reached, on the implementation of which the Foreign Ministry will now work.

Therefore, I absolutely agree with you - this is an example of such a normal, decent and equal interaction between two states. When some problems related to human rights and other things are not artificially protruded and politicized, which is often an absolutely fanciful pretext.

“Belarus 1”: During the meeting, the issue of the visit of the Prime Minister of India to Belarus and of our President to India was also discussed. Are there any dates, maybe the terms have already been discussed?

V.Makei: The issue was discussed in principle. We will work on this, because we must take into account the pandemic situation in that region and in our region. But there is mutual interest - this is the most important thing. Therefore, I think that we will work on the technical and protocol details in the nearest future.

“Belarus 1”: Are we going to expand our diplomatic staff in India?

V.Makei: I have already mentioned this topic. Taking into account the fact that India is a huge territory, a huge country in which a huge population, it is often impossible to cover all regions from the capital. We decided to open a consulate general in the financial and economic capital of India - Mumbai. So now we are going to work on it. The preliminary reaction from our Indian partners is positive. Now we will develop a concrete plan for the implementation of this idea, this proposal so that our diplomats could constantly present in Mumbai, where a huge number of financial and industrial centers are concentrated.

By the way, this is a region where our tourists go quite willingly. As the pandemic situation over the past year showed - and I was surprised to learn - that a lot of our citizens ended up in India, and then they had to be taken out with difficulty.

“Belarus 1”: Let's go back to the meeting on the activities of the Foreign Ministry. At the meeting, the President sounded the following phrase, I will quote: "A friendly country for us is the country where the buyer votes with his ruble for the Belarusian product, and the government does not interfere with this." And in which countries any obstacles being raised?

V.Makei: You know them, in those countries that imposed sanctions against Belarus in connection with the last year's presidential elections. These are the countries of the European Union, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and some of the acceding European states.

We look at it quite calmly. Of course, we take this into account while developing our foreign economic and foreign policy activities. Of course, we will try to do everything so that this does not affect the well-being of the people. Although, that’s for sure, sometimes it can be quite difficult to do because of the radical position of some people, who actually believe that sanctions are the best tool for resolving any issues, including those within interstate relations.

We will never strive to use sanctions against the peoples of other states, against the businesses of other countries with which we are ready to work and will continue to work. Therefore, yes, we take this into account in our activities, but we will develop adequate steps to respond.

“Belarus 1”: Another question that very interesting to me. The Council of Ministers has developed a system for assessing the contribution of diplomats to the common "export moneybox". What is it like? What will be the criteria for this assessment?

V.Makei: Indeed, we have slightly improved the criteria for assessing the activities of our diplomats working abroad. Before we evaluated them, let's say, by the level of exports to certain countries, now we have comprehensively approached this assessment and developed about eight to ten criteria. They include indicators related to foreign economic activity (like export-import), indicators related to attracting foreign investment from abroad, activities on improvement of institutional mechanisms (intergovernmental commissions, business councils, visits at the highest and high levels), carrying out special events (like exhibitions, seminars, conferences, and so on) and a number of other factors that we will take into account while assessing the activities of, first of all, the head of a foreign representation at the end of the year. These criteria have been introduced since the beginning of this year, so I think that we will come to the meeting with the Head of State, which is likely to take place in July, with a preliminary assessment of the work of this or that leader.

“Belarus 1”: In your opinion, what is the number one question the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus is facing today?

V.Makei: You know, today, and always, the number one issue for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is the protection of the country's national interests, the strengthening of state sovereignty and the protection of the territorial integrity of the Republic of Belarus. This is the number one question for us.

“Belarus 1”: Thank you very much! Thanks for the interview!

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