Relations with Belarus
NATO and Belarus have established a relationship based on the pursuit of common interests, while also keeping open channels for dialogue. Key areas of cooperation include civil preparedness and defence reforms. NATO works with Belarus to implement reforms in these areas, while continuing to call on Belarus to increase the pace of its democratic reforms.
- Relations with NATO started in 1992, when Belarus joined the North Atlantic Cooperation Council. This forum for dialogue was succeeded in 1997 by the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, which brings together all Allies and partner countries in the Euro-Atlantic area.
- Dialogue is facilitated by the existence of Belarus’ diplomatic mission to NATO, which was opened in April 1998.
- Bilateral cooperation began when Belarus joined the Partnership for Peace (PfP) programme in 1995. Under the PfP, NATO and Belarus are developing practical cooperation in a number of areas through the Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme (IPCP) between NATO and Belarus.
- On the basis of the IPCP, Belarusian personnel are attending courses in NATO countries and practical cooperation is being developed in areas such as civil preparedness, crisis management, arms control, air defence and air traffic control, telecommunications and information processing, as well as language training and military education.
- NATO Allies have expressed their concern at the lack of progress in democratic reforms in Belarus. Nonetheless, NATO Allies believe that keeping open channels of communication, practical cooperation and dialogue is in the best interest of regional security.
- NATO Allies have been closely watching the developments unfolding in Belarus since August 2020. The Secretary General has called on the Belarusian authorities to demonstrate full respect for human rights, including freedom of speech and the right to peaceful protest. He has underlined that it is for the people of Belarus to determine their future. All Allies support a sovereign and independent Belarus. NATO poses no threat to the country and has no military build-up in the region.
- In May 2021, NATO strongly condemned the diversion and forced landing of a Ryanair flight between Athens and Vilnius in Minsk, Belarus, as well as the removal and arrest of Raman Pratasevich, a prominent Belarusian journalist travelling on board, and his companion Sofia Sapega. NATO Allies have called for the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Pratasevich and Ms. Sapega. NATO also called on Belarus to respect fundamental rights and freedoms, and to abide by the rules-based international order.
Key areas of cooperation
Belarus’ cooperation with NATO is mutually beneficial and includes:
Building capabilities and interoperability
- Belarus participates in the PfP Planning and Review Process (PARP). This participation is aimed at encouraging transparency and at assisting the country in developing capabilities and interoperability for international peace-support operations. NATO helps set planning targets that will enable Belarus to develop some of its forces and capabilities for potential participation in PfP activities, including NATO-led PfP operations, and in this way contribute to security and stability.
- Belarus participated in a NATO Trust Fund project aimed at helping the country meet its obligations under the Ottawa Convention on the prohibition of the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel mines and on their destruction. Completed in January 2007, this joint project, led by Canada and co-funded by Belarus and Lithuania, involved the destruction of some 700,000 anti-personnel mines in Belarus.
- Since 2001, Belarus has received grant awards for about 40 cooperative activities under NATO’s Science for Peace and Security Programme (SPS). Areas of focus include telecommunications, Chernobyl-related risk assessment studies and explosive material detection systems. One notable project brought together scientists from Belarus, Norway and Ukraine to assess the hazards posed by radioactive contamination in the Polessie State Radiation-Ecological Reserve.
- NATO and Belarusian experts engage in discussions of transparency, arms control, and risk reduction, including confidence- and security-building measures.
- NATO also seeks to contribute to the development of Belarusian civil society. This takes place primarily through public diplomacy activities. Since 2013, the NATO Public Diplomacy Division has co-organised an annual seminar with the Belarusian “Foreign Policy and Security Research Center” to discuss regional security issues. Belarusian non-governmental and civil society organisations are encouraged to engage with NATO’s Public Diplomacy Division.