‘Still unclear why Russia needs airbase in Belarus’ – outgoing UK envoy

UK Ambassador to Belarus Bruce Bucknell, whose diplomatic term expires on January 15, has granted an interview to the independent news agency BelaPAN. 

“Russia has a military base in Kaliningrad, which is situated closer to Warsaw than, let’s say, Babruysk,” he said. “I don’t know whether Russia really needs to have this base in Belarus and why this should be a priority. Russia has many priorities, perhaps, too many. Belarus is Russia’s military ally anyway.”

Mr. Bucknell pointed out that Russian military bases had played an active role in the annexation of Crimea and military action in Donetsk and Luhansk provinces.

“Russian President Vladimir Putin himself admitted this,” he said. “To be honest, it’s not very pleasant to be an ally of a country that treats others like Russia.”

Mr. Bucknell described Russia’s self-image as ‘post-imperial’. “We all like to view ourselves as a great and important nation, so Russia’s stance is understandable,” he said. “But no one has the right to tell other nations to do their bidding. Relations should be mutually beneficial, but Russia appears to want all benefits for itself. And now its relations with a very large number of countries are very poor. And this is a problem.

Why did the Baltic countries decide to join NATO, for example? Because many of them didn’t feel safe next to Russia.”

Belarus remains a tightly controlled country, but it is moving closer to Europe, Mr. Bucknell added.

Her Majesty’s Ambassador learns both Russian and Belarusian languages. Regarding pronunciation, Belarusian is more straightforward than Russian, Mr Bucknell said in his blog.

Video: Bruce Bucknell reading Shakespeare in Belarusian

The British government has already appointed career diplomat Fiona Gibb to succeed Mr. Bucknell. She is scheduled to arrive in Minsk at the end of January.

Belsat.eu, following Tanya Korovenkova/BelaPAN

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