Russia and Belarus to form common

  • 2002-04-18
  • Agence France-Presse

Russia and Belarus will merge their armed forces in the long-term in the framework of the Belarus-Russia union, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said here on Tuesday.

"This is an objective which has already been announced and is no secret," Ivanov told reporters after meeting his Belarussian counterpart Leonid Maltsev.

"I see no reason why we should not pursue this aim. How much time it will take, I cannot say, but as defence ministers we regularly make proposals in this direction," he added.

"On the whole, military cooperation is one of the most developed fields (for Russia and Belarus integration)," said Ivanov.

The two ministers underlined that their countries already collaborated in the sphere of anti-air defence.

In a statement released after a meeting between Ivanov and Belarus's President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, the president's office said that Minsk "will pursue cooperation with Russia in the military sphere, notably with new arms purchases."

Russia signed a union treaty in December 1999 which largely remains a dead letter because of the economic disparities between Russia and economically-backward Belarus.

Lukashenko visited Moscow last week to sign a series of accords with Russian President Vladimir Putin aimed at pushing forward the process of integration.