Chairman of the upper House of the Parliament Anatoly Rubinov visited Lida of the Grodno region
On 13 May Lida hosted a meeting of the Council for Cooperation of Local Self-Governments under the auspices of the Council of the Republic “Efforts of Local Councils of Deputies of Lida region in creating favourable conditions for development of tourist and excursion services and rural tourism”, opened by its Chairman of the Board Anatoly Rubinov.
Recent initiatives of the local authorities aimed at the development of tourism in the region. Regardless of the existing development programme in this regard and some positive changes, the effect of its implementation remains low. The currency crisis and lack of resources to address it, finally forced the central authorities to look into possible ways of attracting foreign currency into the country more seriously. In 2010 export of services amounted to USD 146.7 million, about 4 million foreigners visited Belarus. Today any source of foreign currency is important.
Yet on 11 May the Yanka Kupala Grodno State University hosted a meeting to discuss the status and prospects of development of tourism in the Grodno region with participation of the Director of the Department of Tourism of the Ministry of Sport and Tourism, and on 13 May the same issue was discussed between local government representatives with participation of Senators. Indeed, the Grodno region has a significant amount of cultural and historical sites remained, that could attract foreigners, moreover, there is a significant potential for development of agro-and ecotourism, and given the situation of currency crisis it could positively affect the unemployment.
However, given the role the local Councils of Deputies play in the system of local governance, the Senators’ meeting with representatives of local government was only a declaration of the desire to change the situation, not implying significant changes. Currently the Grodno local government is not interested in developing small businesses that do not generate significant tax revenue to the local budgets.
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.