FORECAST FOR 2012
The economic agreements signed by President Lukashenko in Moscow and the first major sale of the assets of the Belarusian Beltransgaz will strengthen the political authority of President Lukashenko and his administration for a while.
It is also likely, that the proceeds received just in time, will allow the authorities to restore the lost popularity among the population, and in particular, the electoral rating of the President. At the same time, the security forces and the Government will continue fighting for the preservation of the conquered positions, which will only decrease the level control over the whole public administration system of Belarus.
The stabilization period in question, will last no longer than six months to a year. After that period, the acute issue of how to keep up citizen’s standard of living and the popularity of the authorities will return back on the agenda, most likely leading to a new management crisis.
In 2012 the main trends of the previous years will continue: the external debt will grow, there will be a shortage of the gold reserves, there will be some non-transparent privatization deals, competitive ability will deteriorate, incomes will fall, unemployment will rise and hidden labour migration to Russia will increase, there will be investment crisis and the gradual decay of production facilities.
The government has once again demonstrated that it would implement economic reforms under strong external pressure by creditors only. 2012 will inevitably result in recession and deindustrialization, increasing misbalances in the key sectors of economy and flows of financial resources, as well as general voluntarism and unpredictability in the economic policy.
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.