Minsk disregards alarming increase in credit dependence on Kremlin
Minsk continues to strengthen its credit and financial dependence on the Kremlin, which could reach critical levels in coming years and cause difficulties in discharging of obligations. The Russian leadership is likely to refrain from dictatorship for the period of the electoral campaign in Russia. However, the weighty credit debt to Moscow would enhance Minsk’s vulnerability to political and economic pressure from the Kremlin after the presidential elections in Russia.
So far, the Russian Government has approved only the draft loan agreement, and its allocation could be delayed and conditioned with concessions from Minsk. An increase in the debt to Moscow up to critical levels could prompt the Belarusian leadership to privatise state enterprises appealing to Russian business (as it was in the case of Beltransgaz in 2007-2011).
The Kremlin has embraced the Chinese experience and is consistently offering to Minsk investment and loans tied to additional commitments. For example, Moscow has granted Minsk a USD 10 billion loan for the construction the Nuclear Power Plant in Ostrovets by Rosatom. In addition, Russian lobbyists insist on changing export routes for Belarusian oil products from Russian raw materials from the ports of Lithuania, Latvia and Ukraine to Russian terminals in Ust-Luga and St. Petersburg.
Until now, Russia has allocated about USD 2.5 billion to the Belarussian government for the construction of the NPP, but by the time the nuclear facility in Ostrovets would be completed in 2020, Belarus’ debt would increase to USD 10 billion. Due to the growing debt on loans, the Kremlin would make Minsk critically dependent on it and create favourable environment for imposing its political and economic interests onto the Belarusian leadership, including the joint exploitation of the NPP or electricity export.
President Lukashenka continues to rotate staff and rejuvenate heads of departments and universities following new appointments in regional administrations. Apparently, new Information Minister Karliukevich could somewhat relax the state policy towards the independent media and introduce technological solutions for retaining control over Belarus’ information space. New rectors could strengthen the trend for soft Belarusization in the regions and tighten the disciplinary and ideological control over the student movement in the capital.
President Lukashenka has appointed new ministers of culture and information, the new rector of the Belarusian State University and heads of three universities, assistants in the Minsk and Vitebsk regions.
The new Information Minister Karliukevich is likely to avoid controversial initiatives similar to those former Minister Ananich was famous for, however, certainly within his capacities. Nevertheless, the appointment of Belarusian-speaking writer Karliukevich could be regarded as the state’s cautious attempt to relax environment in the media field and ensure the sovereignty of national media.
The Belarusian leadership has consolidated the trend for mild Belarusization by appointing a young historian and a ‘reasonable nationalist’, Duk as the rector at the Kuleshov State University in Mogilev. Meanwhile, while choosing the head of the Belarusian State University, the president apparently had in mind the strengthening of the ideological loyalty among the teaching staff and students at the main university in order to keep the youth movement at bay. Previously, Korol was the rector of the Kupala State University in Grodno, where he held purges among the disloyal teaching staff.
The trend for the renewal of mid-ranking executives and their rejuvenation has confirmed. The age of the Culture Minister and three new rectors varies from 39 to 44 years old.