MINSK -- Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka says his country "remains an island of stability and order" even as it "smells of war again in Europe."
Lukashenka, in his annual address to the nation in parliament on April 29, said the level of tension between countries in Europe is the "same as during the Cold War."
Lukashenka was referring to the tensions between the West and Russia over Moscow's annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula last year and the fighting between government forces and Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, which has killed more than 6,100 people since April 2014.
Lukashenka also said that his government is able to mobilize half a million people to fight if necessary.
"The international situation compels us to boost our country's defenses... This force [half a million recruits] is sufficient to counter any schemes and attempted aggression against Belarus," Lukashenka said.
Lukashenka also rejected statements by some Russian officials, criticizing his decision not to take part in the military parade in Moscow on May 9 that will mark the 70th anniversary of the Nazi defeat in World War II.
Lukashenka reiterated that he will be in Moscow to mark the anniversary on May 7 and 8, but will have to return to Minsk, where, as the commander in chief of the Belarusian Armed Forces he will preside at Belarus's own military parade.
Lukashenka called Moscow "our former capital," adding that "we are a part of the Russian world," but "we are a sovereign and independent state, that has its own stance on any political issue."
According to Lukashenka, "if anything happens, Belarus will always be on Russia's side."
Lukashenka also said Belarus's independence can be preserved by keeping the peace and developing a stable economy.
"We remember the lessons of the Great Patriotic War [World War II]. That war cost us millions of lives. And our current goal is to preserve the greatest values -- peace and order," he said.
Lukashenka, 60, has been president of Belarus since 1994.
Lukashenka's authoritarian rule has led to Belarus being dubbed "Europe's last dictatorship."