Relations with Belarus

  • Last updated: 22 Jul. 2022 09:19

NATO worked to build a partnership with Belarus for many years, developing dialogue and practical cooperation in areas of common interest since 1992, when the country joined the North Atlantic Cooperation Council. In 2021, Allies suspended practical cooperation between NATO and Belarus, while maintaining dialogue, as necessary. NATO Allies have condemned Belarus for enabling Russia’s brutal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 and for its ongoing complicity in Russia’s war of aggression.

Flag of Belarus in sky

Photo: uzhursky via Getty Images

  • NATO Allies have been closely watching the developments unfolding in Belarus since August 2020. The NATO 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 Allies have condemned Belarus for enabling Russia’s brutal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 and for its ongoing complicity in Russia’s war of aggression.
  • 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 Belarusian journalist travelling on board, and his companion Sofia Sapega.
  • At the Brussels Summit in June 2021, NATO Leaders stated that Belarus’ policies and actions have implications for regional stability, and that it violated the principles that underpin the partnership between NATO and Belarus. Heads of State and Government called on Belarus to abide by international law, respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, and immediately and unconditionally release all political prisoners, including those belonging to the Union of Poles in Belarus.
  • In November 2021, NATO condemned the instrumentalisation of irregular migration artificially created by Belarus as a hybrid action targeted towards Poland, Lithuania and Latvia for political purposes. NATO Allies called on Belarus to cease these actions, to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, and to abide by international law.
  • In November 2021, Allies suspended all practical cooperation, both civilian and military, between NATO and Belarus, while maintaining dialogue, as necessary. 

Evolution of relations

  • Belarus’ relations with NATO started in 1992, when it 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.
  • Belarus’ diplomatic mission to NATO opened in April 1998.
  • Bilateral cooperation began when Belarus joined the Partnership for Peace (PfP) programme in 1995. Under the PfP, NATO and Belarus developed practical cooperation in a number of areas through the Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme (IPCP) agreed between NATO and Belarus.
  • On the basis of the IPCP, Belarusian personnel attended courses in NATO countries and practical cooperation was developed in areas such as civil preparedness, scientific cooperation, peace-support operations, as well as language training and military education.
  • The NATO Public Diplomacy Division co-organised an annual seminar in Minsk with the Belarusian Foreign Policy and Security Research Center to discuss regional and international security issues with Belarusian experts and students. The latest of these seminars took place in December 2018. Representatives of Belarusian civil society regularly attended NATO briefing programmes at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.

Key areas of cooperation prior to 2021

Belarus’ cooperation with NATO prior to 2021 was mutually beneficial. Some highlights included:

  • Belarus participated in the PfP Planning and Review Process (PARP). The aim of this participation was to encourage transparency and assist the country in developing capabilities and interoperability for international peace-support operations. NATO helped set planning targets that enabled Belarus to develop some of its forces and capabilities for potential participation in PfP activities, including NATO-led PfP operations, and in this way contributed to security and stability.
  • Belarus had access to and participated in a wide catalogue of education and training opportunities offered by NATO education and training facilities, as well as courses provided by Allies and partners.  
  • 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 included 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.
  • The Belarusian Ministry of Emergency Situations participated in the annual civil emergency exercises organised by NATO’s Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre (EADRCC).
  • Belarus participated in a NATO Trust Fund project aimed at helping Belarus to 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.