Belarusian Minister of Foreign Affairs Vladimir Makei disclosed on Monday that he attended a series of confidential meetings with European and American leaders on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly last week.
“Those were meetings with Europeans and Americans. They asked us to keep our conversations confidential,” Makei said, according to Belarusian state news agency Belta.
The foreign minister of Belarus, a key ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s even as Russia wages war in Ukraine, declined to elaborate on the substance of the meetings. Makei only alluded vaguely to the idea that the meetings would be damaging to the United States should their contents leak out into the public eye.
“Belarus has probably reached such a potential that the information about the meeting… might destroy even such a superpower as the United States,” Makei said.
The mysterious meetings come on the heels of a series of defeats for Russia on the battlefield in Ukraine, in which Ukrainian forces were able to push back Russia’s military from key regions in the south and northeast. The faltering approach has been followed in quick succession by some of Russia’s key international trading partners, including China and India, publicly chastising Moscow for the way Putin has been conducting the war.
And although Belarus has been an ally of Putin for years now, the Belarusian leader, Alexander Lukashenko, has long held a set of precarious relationships with other nations on the world stage.
Belarus is in a “union” partnership with Russia in which the two nations work to enmesh their militaries, trade, and more, and the country has allowed Russian forces to stage attacks on Ukraine from Belarusian territory. But Lukashenko has expressed a distaste for the war in some instances, complaining that it has lagged in recent months. Historically, he has frequently adopted a view independent of Russia’s, diplomats who previously served in Belarus tell The Daily Beast.
After the mysterious meetings, Lukashenko traveled to Russia to meet with Putin Monday. There, he and Putin have been lambasting Europeans for how their governments have been treating Russia and Belarus.
“If Europe finished seething, it must pause and think. I am not speaking about those across the ocean,” Lukashenko said, alluding to the fact that he is concerned about Europe, not countries like the United States, according to Belta. “I have already told Europeans three times that their future is with us, with Russia, which has everything they need.”
“No one will tolerate being looked down upon. Neither Belarus nor Russia, a giant country,” Lukashenko added.
Putin chimed in, urging Europeans to “respect” Russia and Belarus.
It was not clear what the Americans and Europeans discussed with the Belarusian foreign minister that could be so damaging, or if it affected the conversation with Putin on Monday. The State Department did not immediately return a request for comment.
Makei’s conversation about the private meetings is likely an effort to show the world stage that Belarus has other relationships with other countries beyond Russia—and that they still maintain leverage—Ken Yalowitz, a former U.S. ambassador to Belarus, told The Daily Beast.
“Belarus right now really is in Putin’s pocket… But Lukashenko, believe it or not, does not like to be seen or viewed as a total Russian doll, a total Russian puppet,” Yalowitz said. Lukashenko “doesn’t want to be, you know… totally in the Russian camp.”
It’s “a signal that Belarus is looking for a little bit of wiggle room,” Yalowitz said. Belarus “is looking to try to see if relationships can be improved with the West.”
During other meetings, the Belarusian envoy discussed bilateral relations and global security, Makei said.
“We discussed ways of strengthening our bilateral relations, global security in an absolutely friendly, constructive manner. It was, indeed, a conversation of friends or partners,” Makei said.
Makei was slated to hold bilateral meetings with diplomats from Europe, Latin America, and Southeast Asia as well.