Lithuanian president calls Belarus a “Russian province” at the Vilnius Nato summit

Lithuanian president calls Belarus a “Russian province” at the Vilnius Nato summit
Lithuanian president took a rhetorical swing at Belarus during the Vilnius Nato summit, calling it a “Russian province” / bne IntelliNews
By Ben Aris in Berlin July 13, 2023

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda lashed out at Belarus, calling it a “Russian province” during the Nato summit held in Vilnius between July 11-12.

“I told President Biden that Belarus is indeed becoming a problem,” Nauseda said after a meeting with the US President Joe Biden in the Lithuanian capital. “This is not the Belarus that it was in 2020. Now we should have no illusions, this country is no longer independent, it is another province of the Russian Federation.”

All three Baltic states have been staunch supporters of Ukraine in its war against Russia routinely condemning the Kremlin, but also remaining very hostile to Belarus, which they regard as a Russian proxy. The Baltics have cut commercial ties with Belarus that used to be a big customer at their ports.

While the main focus of the summit was the possible invitation for Ukraine to join Nato, which came to naught leaving Ukraine in limbo, Belarus was also in focus and condemned for its support of Russia’s war effort.

Nato leaders at the summit urged Belarus to end its cooperation with Russia's aggression against Ukraine and adhere to international law. The summit communiqué highlighted Russia's increasing military integration with Belarus, including the deployment of Russian nuclear weapons to the Republic and military facilities and personnel to the country.

Nato expressed its commitment to closely monitor developments, particularly regarding the potential deployment of the Wagner Private Military Company to Belarus.

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko recently brokered a deal between the Kremlin and Wagner which staged an armed mutiny on June 24, briefly taking control of the Russian city of Rostov. As part of the deal Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin was supposed to depart for Minsk, but Lukashenko revealed that Prigozhin was still in Russia and it was subsequently reported that he met with Putin together with his top commanders five days after the rebellion.

Nato leaders called on Belarus to cease its harmful activities against its neighbouring countries, respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, and abide by international law.

Belarusian opposition leader in exile Svetlana Tikhanovskaya also attended the Nato summit and met with US President Joe Biden, who pledged continuing support for the one time presidential candidate.

Tikhanovskaya called on Nato member states to consider including a democratic Belarus in their envisioned security architecture. She emphasised the importance of discussing Belarus alongside Ukraine, stating that security for Ukraine cannot be achieved without freedom for Belarus.

With Russia's announcement of the transfer of Wagner Group troops and tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus, neighbouring EU states like Lithuania called on Nato to strengthen its eastern flank further, highlighting the need for enhanced security measures in the region.