The Belarusian National Dilemma

  • KATHLEEN MIHALISKO, Stanislau Shushkevich
  • Published 2005


The Republic of Belarus has earned plaudits and words of gratitude from President Bill Clinton and his administration for its resolute commitment to nuclear disarmament. Immediately following the final collapse of the Soviet state in December 1991, officials in Belarus, one of four nuclear-armed successor states to the USSR, expressed a desire to become the first nation in history to voluntarily give up its arsenal of nuclear weapons. As the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) enters its third year of existence, Miensk has shown no sign of hesitation before the task. In February 1993, the Belarusian Parliament voted to ratify START-1 and the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. With a U.S. pledge of $65 million toward the costs, Belarus has already dismantled nine of its 81 SS-25 missiles and shown interest in eliminating the remainder well ahead of the schedule imposed by START-1. Given mounting concerns over the intentions of other former Soviet republics, it is easy to understand why Secretary of State Warren Christopher, during a recently completed visit to Miensk, was profuse in his praise of the example Belarus was setting for a more sluggish Kazakhstan and an alarmingly recalcitrant Ukraine. Anti-nuclear sentiment indeed runs deep in this little-known country situated in the geographic center of Europe. In sharp contrast to their counterparts in neighboring Ukraine, even the most radical supporters of Belarusian independence shun discussion of maintaining a nuclear deterrent against potential Russian aggression. Public and parliamentary debate on the implications of nuclear disarmament for national security has been conspicuously absent, barring a few murmurs of protest from members of the former Soviet officer corps based in Belarus. Such aversion to the nuclear option can be explained in large part by the lingering trauma of Chernobyl—the consequences of which were most dramatic and widespread in Belarus—and by broad exasperation with the country's status as one of the most militarized societies in Europe in terms of the concentration of troops and arms. But to an important degree, the ready rejection of nuclear weapons also stems from a characteristically Belarusian sense of moderation. If many Ukrainians envision their country as a future powerhouse, the national self-image among Belarusians is more restrained and cognizant of the country's very poor endowment in natural resources. A good illustration was provided last year by

Cite this paper

@inproceedings{MIHALISKO2005TheBN, title={The Belarusian National Dilemma}, author={KATHLEEN MIHALISKO and Stanislau Shushkevich}, year={2005} }