Belarus to keep sales up on Russian market with lower export prices
According to the National Statistics Committee, Belarus’ exports to the Russian market in January - October 2016 totalled 8.8 billion and increased by 0.7% as compared with the same period in 2015. Prices for most Belarusian export items on the Russian market fell as compared with 2015. The growth in export was mainly due to higher export volumes, including the biggest growth in exports of capital goods (machinery and equipment, means of land transport). The Russian Food Administration is likely to continue to control fruit and vegetable supply to Russia from Belarus in order to reveal re-exports. In addition, exports of non-food consumer goods from Belarus (clothing, footwear, household appliances) to the Russian market are likely to increase. Stagnation in the construction industry is likely to lower the demand for decoration and building materials from Belarus. Due to the increased share of the Russian rouble in the basket of currencies, Belarus will improve response to changes in prices in Russia, and if necessary, will step up the competitiveness of Belarusian goods by propping up the national currency.
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.