Kremlin has resumed graduated financial and economic support for Belarus in 2017
Amid settlement of the protracted energy dispute, Minsk and Moscow have restored neutral media coverage. Moscow has resumed graduated credit and economic support for the Belarusian economy, as agreed by the Russian and Belarusian leaders. Yet the conflict potential in bilateral relations has not been exhausted and manifested through problems with access of Belarusian produces to the Russian market and poor cooperation between some potentially rival agencies.
In an article devoted to the 25th anniversary of Belarus’ independent foreign policy, Belarusian Foreign Minister Makey emphasised that cooperation problems between Belarus and Russia in trade, economic, fuel-energy, border and other spheres were often artificial.
Apparently, this year, Minsk would obtain the expected financial and economic support from Moscow. For example, the Eurasian Stabilisation and Development Fund has already transferred the third US 300 million tranche to Belarus. In addition, Belarus expects the fourth USD 300 million tranche this year and a new USD 1 billion loan agreement to be concluded. Russia has resumed the oil supply at 24 million tons per year and called off the obligation to redeliver one million ton of fuel.
Yet the conflict potential in bilateral relations has not been exhausted. For instance, Rosselkhoznadzor has banned more than ten tons of meat import to Russia lacking veterinary documents. Meanwhile, the Belarusian Agriculture Ministry and Rosselkhoznadzor have stepped up cooperation in order to remove all barriers for import of Belarusian produces to Russia.
That said, yet another tension is brewing in Russo-Belarusian relations as Russian customs have refused to accept certificates of compliance issued by other EEU states, including Belarus, when registering customs declarations. The Russian customs agency has put Russian firms authorised to issue a certification package in a more advantageous position.
Overall, Minsk has rescinded demarches and criticism of the Eurasian integration along with the accusations of non-fulfilment of allied commitments by Russia. In its turn, the Kremlin has restored graduated financial support for the Belarusian economy in the coming year.
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.