Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka says his country is ready for a "constructive dialogue" with NATO.
Speaking to top Belarusian military officials in Minsk on February 19, Lukashenka said: "As a sovereign state we are open, in particular, to constructive dialogue with NATO on parity and transparency principles."
He added that "we have a lot of common issues [with NATO]; joint work on which fully meets Belarus’s interests."
Lukashenka -- who has ruled for 21 years and been called the last dictator of Europe -- said the fighting in Ukraine has shown that Belarus must have an army capable of protecting "its national interests."
"If need be, we have to be able to defend the independence and sovereignty of our country," he said.
Lukashenka added that additional finances will be allocated for the ongoing systemic renovation of arms in Belarusian armed forces which is scheduled to be accomplished by 2020.