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Belorussian Neutrality as a Factor
Of National And European Security.

Ural Latypov, Belarus
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  1. Types of Neutrality and the Problem of Belorussian Option of a Neutral Status.
  2. Belorussian option of a particular neutrality model is clearly defined neither in Constitution nor in other official documents. It would be efficient and necessary in the framework of the present research to study appropriateness of different types of neutrality for Belarus and their correspondence to its security interests.


3.1 Neutrality at War Time.

    Eventual neutrality (at war time) was the first historic form of neutrality and the only one for a long period of time.

    States usually declared that type of neutrality in case of reluctance to be involved in a military conflict, just after its beginning. Unilateral declaration usually led to making corresponding rules of international law operate. These rules provided for execution of respective rights and responsibilities of different parties and obliged conflicting parties to respect neutrality.

    Later, countries began to conclude bilateral agreements obliging a state to be neutral in case of war of the other party with third state. Such agreements usually began operation at the moment of a war break-up. This conflict which should meet the requirements set in the treaty activated rights and responsibilities of parties.

    At peace time that type of agreement does not impose any direct obligations on parties and does not give any specific rights. However, a state that signed the agreement should not pursue a policy that could make execution of agreement at war time impossible.

    USSR concluded such agreements with Germany (1926), Turkey (1925), Afghanistan (1926), Iran (1927), Japan (1941) and several other countries.

    No eventual neutrality agreements have been concluded in post World War II period, because, first of all, the perception of war changed, and the UN charter reflected the principle of non-use of force or threat of force. In these conditions states prefer not to conclude eventual neutrality agreements, which presume a possibility of war in principle, but rather define their positions in every particular case.

    However, states even being neutral in some particular cases usually do not make declarations. They simply do not support any of the parties of conflict.

    Belarus since attaining of independence has been following strictly the course of non-involvement in international conflicts.

    And there is no need to conclude agreements with other states beforehand or to declare eventual neutrality beforehand. It would be enough to declare neutrality at the moment of war break-up. Rights and responsibilities of Belarus will be the same as in the above-mentioned case. This beforehand declared eventual neutrality gives no advantages at peace time. Hardly could it contribute to establishment of Belorussian sovereignty and its reputation in international community.

    It should be emphasized that Belarus's refusal to participate in international military conflicts including those on the territory of the former USSR may well be the main practical result of Belorussian neutrality. In this sphere Belarus gives priority to the principle of neutrality over solidarity.


3.2 Permanent Neutrality.

    Permanent neutrality is a specific legal status of a state willing to remain neutral in any future war, except self-defense in case of military aggression against it. Permanent neutrality status should be reflected in an international agreement and give rise to mutual rights and obligations.

    A permanently neutral state assumes responsibility to refrain from war in all circumstances except self-defense, not to participate in military unions and alliances and not to conclude agreements which could lead to involvement of the state into a war.

    To fulfill these obligations a state should pursue peaceful policy at peace time and to maintain and support good stable relations with other states. A right of this neutral state to be respected corresponds to that obligation.

    In case of any war, military actions should not take place on the territory of a neutral state. Conflicting states may not break inviolability of a neutral state, may not bomb it or put its troops to territory of the state.

    At time of war between third states a state with permanent neutral status has the same rights and responsibilities as those which declared neutrality after beginning of the war. Unlike eventual neutrality obliging a state to pursue neutral policy only in respect of the states with which an agreement was signed a permanently neutral state should do it in relations with any country.

    A permanently neutral state has more rights of protection of its status and may turn to other states for help. Permanent neutrality status provides for special rights and responsibilities for a neutral state as well as other countries in relations with it.

    Permanent neutral state should pursue a peaceful policy or at least not to pursue unfriendly one in respect to whatever state. For instance, it should not participate in economic boycotts (except those imposed by the UN), undertake discriminative measures, encourage terrorist activities against other states.

    Neither at peace nor at war time a permanently neutral state may let troops of foreign states, military groups of foreign citizens or groups of mercenaries transfer through its territory for participation in a military conflict on the territory of another state. The territory of a neutral state may not be used for location of bases by these terrorist or other criminal military groups.

    A possibility of conclusion of agreements concerning mutual assistance by neutral states is a separate and very important issue. It is obvious that a permanently neutral state may not participate in military blocks and military-political unions.

    A permanently neutral state may conclude agreement on cooperation in case of war with another state if parties assume responsibility to act collectively only if aggression goes through the territory of a neutral state. Since the only case in which a permanently neutral state would be obliged to participate in military actions would be a self-defense this type of treaty does not jeopardize its neutrality. Self-defense is a right of every state of which it may not be deprived. For instance, that type of treaty was concluded between the USSR and Finland (Treaty on Friendship and Cooperation, 1948), according to its stipulations USSR had to aid Finland in case of any aggression. Finland - only if aggression against the USSR was directed through the territory of Finland.

    Since for self-defense and execution of a treaty stipulations military forces are needed, permanent neutrality is considered to be an armed neutrality. However it should be specified that a state has a right to keep military forces but not an obligation.

    Alongside with rights and responsibilities of a neutral state other states that guaranteed the neutrality or recognized it even tacitly also have some responsibilities towards this neutral country.

    A neutral state should be independent and free from any type of foreign influence and pressure since it voluntarily assumed the responsibility of non-involvement in military actions except self-defense. A permanently neutral state has a right to cede a part of its territory to another state, acquire new territories as well as enter different unions of states including confederations and federations. Such actions undoubtedly do not include activities leading to ceasing of states existence as a subject of international law or to loss of its independence. It would be incorrect, however, to consider all types of unions prohibited for a neutral state. In some circumstances a neutral state, taking into consideration its interests and will may enter a confederation or otherwise unite with other states which agree to respect its permanent neutral status.

    Of the former USSR republics Turkmenistan opted for permanent neutrality and made a number of steps directed at its recognition by other states and the UN.

    Is it possible to acquire a permanent neutrality status for Belarus by unilateral declaration of its intention to do so or by concluding international treaties? Even in case of political appropriateness of such a step for Belarus it is impossible at present since there are the following insuperable obstacles complicating the situation considerably: location of Russian military bases on Belorussian territory and unilateral dependence of Belarus on Russia.

    That would not let Belarus execute the responsibilities following neutral status, even in case it had been officially proclaimed. There is a broad consensus concerning this conclusion among researchers and policy-makers in Belarus.

    However, Belarus should not abandon the idea of permanent neutrality which is surely a resource of Belorussian future foreign policy. It is impossible to make definite predictions concerning exact timing and legal form of the status acquisition, since the issue of effectiveness of permanent neutrality in Europe is now questionable. Austrian and Swiss attempts to adapt their status to the requirements of active participation in integrational process would play a significant role.


3.3 Traditional neutrality.

    As mentioned previously a state may not establish a permanent neutrality status unilaterally. Treaties with other states are needed. In these circumstances it would be interesting to qualify the position of Sweden and Finland and some other states which definitely declare its intention to be apart from any future conflict and at the same time do not conclude agreements concerning permanent neutrality.

    Although conditionally but a "traditional neutrality" term may be used in that case. For example, Sweden has not participated in wars for nearly 180 years, beginning with 1814. Although Swedish neutrality was not an ideal one at the time of World War II, it may be considered a traditional one.

    Since such policy has been characteristic primarily for Sweden the model may be called "Swedish". Unilateral will of such states reflected in official statements of heads of states, resolutions of parliaments as well as results of foreign policy discussions and joint statements with foreign heads of states - all these form the basis of traditional neutrality. Their neutrality being supported by population is reflected neither in Constitutions nor in special constitutional laws (like in Austrian Constitutional Law 1955).

    It is very important that there are no treaties or agreements obliging a traditionally neutral state to perceive peaceful policy and remain neutral in case of military conflict. This neutral states conduct such a policy basing on understanding of their interests in international politics.

    The absence of legal international reflection constitutes a difference between permanent and traditional neutrality, however, their contents is the same. Since a traditionally neutral state has no obligations concerning non-involvement in a military conflict in respect to a particular state specified in an international agreement there is a difference between traditional and eventual types of neutrality.

    Traditionally neutral states occupy a specific place in international relations. They constitute a stage between permanent neutrality and non-alignment with which it has much in common in absence of a legal reflection of foreign policy course, non-involvement in military unions and prohibition to give its territory to foreign states for military bases location.

    The absence of such international agreements means that countries like Sweden following their traditional neutral policy have no obligations in respect to foreign states. Such an option is a sovereign right of any country, and the present state shows unwillingness of Sweden to establish the status by a legal instrument.

    Other states also have no responsibilities following Swedish traditional neutrality, they are not obliged to aid Sweden in case of threat or intervention, however they must respect the Swedish foreign policy course.

    The answer to the question if that type of neutrality could fit Belarus might be positive. For establishment of that type of neutrality it would be enough for Belarus to make a unilateral statement in the form of Government or Parliament declaration.

    By same unilateral measures Belarus could abandon the status in future, if because of some reason it does not fit its interests. Certainly it is necessary to take into consideration that none of the mentioned countries in the category abandoned its status, they rather emphasize the advantages following that type of policy.

    In such a case foreign states would not be obliged to aid Belarus in case of military confrontation, however, especially if its foreign policy status is respected foreign aid may be rendered.

    Therefore, simplicity of establishment by a unilateral declaration, absence of international obligations especially like those following permanent neutrality, and at the same time an opportunity to use all its advantages except the right of a permanently neutral state to claim support from guaranteeing states in case of aggression may lead to the situation when traditional neutrality may become the most appropriate one for Belarus.


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