Anti-Russian sanctions backlash on Belarus

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August 07, 2017 12:30
Photo: www.kp.by

The fact that Russian and, consequently, Belarusian roubles have depreciated following the information about the approval of anti-Russian sanctions by the US president, has reaffirmed the strong dependence of the Belarusian financial system and economy as a whole on the Russian economy. Belarus continued attempts to counter-balance strong Russian influence by stepping up cooperation with China. In addition, she has prepared to argue about the entire spectre of cooperation issues within bilateral relations with Russia and within the EEU framework.

The Belarusian authorities have not interfered to neutralize the impact from the Russian rouble depreciation on the Belarusian rouble. The financial market is in short supply, and the national debt has already reached a dangerous 40% of GDP without tangible prospects for changing this ratio for the better. The authorities attempt to balance out Russia’s influence on the Belarusian economy by not only developing a dialogue with the West, but also developing relations with China, offering special conditions to Chinese corporations. In addition, Belarus is attempting to balance Russia's influence by searching for common ground with Kazakhstan within the EEU framework (although, until now, such attempts have been inconsistent and ineffective).

Last week, bilateral relations with Russia remained within the usual framework of mutual ad hoc bans on imports of some produces and symbolic gestures of loyalty. The Rosselkhoznadzor decided to restrict imports of Belarusian ice cream, and Belarus – imports of pork from the Moscow region. The states continued to work on a compromise regarding the Russian border control of flights from Belarus. The Belarusian Foreign Ministry announced an open accreditation for journalists to monitor the West-2017 military drill.

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Belarusian and Ukrainian Defence Ministries entangle in confrontation spiral
October 02, 2017 11:57
Фото: RFRM

Over the past year, military-political relations between Minsk and Kyiv have become complicated. Due to their high inertia and peculiarities, this downward trend would be extremely difficult to overcome.

The root cause of the crisis is the absence of a common political agenda in the Belarusian-Ukrainian relations. Minsk is looking for a market for Belarusian exports in Ukraine and offers its services as a negotiation platform for the settlement of the Russo-Ukrainian war, thereby hoping to avoid political issues in the dialogue with Kiev. Meanwhile, Ukraine is hoping for political support from Minsk in the confrontation with Moscow. In addition, Ukraine’s integration with NATO presupposes her common position with the Alliance in relation to Belarus. The NATO leadership regards the Belarusian Armed Forces as an integral part of the Russian military machine in the western strategic front (the Baltic states and Poland). In addition, the ongoing military reform in Ukraine envisages a reduction in the number of generals and the domestic political struggle makes some Ukrainian top military leaders targets in politically motivated attacks.

Hence, the criticism of Belarus coming from Ukrainian military leadership is dictated primarily by internal and external political considerations, as well as by the need to protect the interests of generals, and only then by facts.

For instance, initially, the Ukrainian military leadership made statements about 100,000 Russian servicemen allegedly taking part in the Russo-Belarusian military drill West-2017. Then the exercises were labelled quazi-open and military observers from Ukraine refused to provide their assessment, which caused a negative reaction in Minsk. Further, without citing specific facts, it was stated that Russia was building up its military presence in Belarus.

Apparently, the Belarusian and Ukrainian Defence Ministries have entangled in a confrontational spiral (on the level of rhetoric). Moreover, only a small part of the overly hidden process has been disclosed. That said, third states are very likely to take advantage of the situation (or have already done so). This is not only about Russia.

The Belarusian Defence Ministry officials are restrained in assessing their Ukrainian counterparts. However, such a restraint is not enough. Current military-political relations between Belarus and Ukraine are unlikely to stabilise without the intervention of both presidents.

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