Key Takeaways From Meeting Between Putin And Lukashenko
RUSSIA - Russian President Vladimir Putin and the President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko met at the Constantine Palace, in Russia and talked about issues such as the economy, the situation with Poland and Lithuania, and NATO training and nuclear weapons in Europe.
The meeting began with Putin pointing out that Russia has invested $4 billion USD in the Belarusian economy in the 'previous years' which are 'direct investments from Russia, and added that Belarusian businesses have also made investments.
Putin also addressed concerns relate to disruptions related to food deliveries and price hikes on food and fertilizer in the global markets. He added that Russia and Belarus are the largest suppliers of fertilizer on the global market and discussed ways of "satisfying the demand on the global market" and their permanent customers but said that 'low use of fertilizer' brings down next year's harvest outlook.
Putin then went on to address "problems with maintaining security" in the region and in the "entire world" and said that "issues related to building the Union State certainly remain within our scope of efforts" and said that their "respective agencies" have agreed on nearly everything, now the issue is the "implementation of all the set goals".
Lukashenko then said that he visited Bronka, the location where Belarus is planning to build a seaport and thanked Putin for his 'endorsement' of the construction project. He also mentioned a dam that was built with Putin's "enormous assistance".
Lukashenko said that Belarus is beginning to load mineral fertilizer at the location, and said that he believes it will be a high-capacity port but that it might not be enough for them and that as agreed, they will see if they need to expand it.
He then went on to talk about 15 'big projects' regarding import substitution, projects for which he said that Putin has given funding and that if things go as planned, they will be "launching the import-substitution production shortly".
Lukashenko then said that Belarus is 'very concerned about the 'situation and policy' pursued by their neighbors, namely the leaders of Poland and Lithuania, which he said was a 'confrontation policy' and said that the greatest number of mercenaries fighting in Ukraine are coming from Poland, calling the policy of the leadership standing behind them 'appalling' and 'aggressive'.
His attention then went to Lithuania, saying that there has been an increase in the flow of reports about their intention to curb Russian transit across Belarus to Kaliningrad in order to isolate Kaliningrad.
Lukashenko said that these attempts of isolating Kaliningrad "amounts to a declaration of war" and said that such actions are "unacceptable in the modern world". He also said that Belarus is very concerned about training flights by the United States and NATO aircraft, which he said carry nuclear weapons and cause great concern.
"I ask you to consider an equivalent response to these actions, without overdoing it," Lukashenko told Putin and said that they are training for carrying nuclear warheads. He then asked Putin for help adjusting some of Belarus's aircraft, saying that he thinks that Belarus has some Su-35 planes that are capable of carrying nuclear weapons.
"I am not saying we will or you will bring nuclear weapons there tomorrow, but this is no joke, we remember 1941 when they kept trying to lull us into a false sense of security: everything will be fine, all is quiet, nobody will attack you. But in the end, we were unprepared for that. That is why it is a grave situation for us" Lukashenko stated.
"I will not hide it: I raise the issue of being ready for anything, including the use of the most serious weapons so as to protect our Fatherland from Brest to Vladivostok". He then said "This is our immediate responsibility. Especially in view of their training, you also know about it, the US flights with their NATO partners. If they are training, they probably have a plan, otherwise what is the use of practicing".
Putin responded "indeed, the Americans have 200 tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, mostly atomic bombs. Two hundred of them are in six European countries, members of NATO, and the North Atlantic bloc. To use these weapons, 257 planes have been prepared – and they are not only US planes but also of those countries I mentioned".
Lukashenko replied with "Outside the United States", to which Putin said, "Outside the United States, in Europe". Lukashenko then said "Meanwhile, Russia does not have a single base of this kind", to which Putin said, "Russia has none. You said we could reciprocate. We could, but you and we probably should not respond – there is not need".
"However, I totally agree with you that we must take care of our unconditional security, the security of the Union State, and maybe even that of the other CSTO member countries," Putin said. "Therefore, I suggest the following. The Belarusian Army has a fairly big number of Su-25 planes. They can be respectively re-equipped".
"Su-25 planes?" Lukashenko asked. Putin replied, "Yes, Su-25. They could have additional equipment installed. This upgrade must be done at aviation plants in Russia but we will decide how to do that. And to begin training of aircrews. This is number one".
"And second. As we had agreed on the issue you raised, a decision was made in our country: within the next several months, we will transfer to Belarus the Iskander-M tactical missile systems, which are known to use both ballistic and cruise missiles, both conventional and nuclear" Putin said.
Putin then addressed the food and fertilizer issues, saying "We are in close contact with the respective UN agencies. I would like to inform you on how this work is progressing".
Lukashenko said "But we do not have any problems with delivering grain or fertilizer to the market. We should not be blamed for that", to which Putin said, "This is true. This is what I meant to talk about because many of our partners ask us to increase supplies. We have to discuss logistics details".
"Last year Russia exported over 40 million tonnes of grain to the world markets. In the current agricultural year – until next summer – we will be ready to export perhaps over 50 million tonnes. I know that Belarus is also increasing production – under your leadership, Belarusian agriculture has been developing very confidently and successfully" Putin stated.
Lukashenko said "We produce half of the fertilizer together with Russia. One half – that is a tremendous amount", to which Putin replied, "We produce about 15 percent of some fertilizer while our share in trade is 25 percent".