Lukashenko addressed his major foreign counterparts
On April 19th, President Lukashenko made his Annual address to the Parliament and the people of Belarus.
President’s two major messages were requests to preserve the state property and to normalize the relations with the European Union. Carrying out these requests would guarantee stability in Belarus, i.e. preservation of power by Lukashenko.
President’s address was rather conventional – he had already made major policy statements in March, during the Council of Ministers meeting. In addition, in the Belarusian political system, the Parliament is de facto an authority which coordinates president’s policies, so Lukashenko sees no need in making policy statements or reporting about his work to the Parliament.
In this respect, Lukashenko’s statements, addressed to international guests – diplomatic corps of Russia, EU and the US – should be regarded as the most significant. For instance, Lukashenko has repeatedly appealed to Russian Ambassador Alexander Surikov and made a frank statement about the European Union and the United States.
Message, addressed to Russia, implied that the President would not support “structural reforms”, i.e. sales of strategic state-owned enterprises to foreign investors. Instead, Lukashenko offered cooperation in terms of investment with the preservation of different ownership forms. Namely, Lukashenko straight forward called the ongoing negotiations with Russian partners about MAZ and Wheel Tractor Plant meaningless ‘small talks’.
In President’s logic, the best example of cooperation between the state and foreign investor was a Swiss-Belarusian joint venture producing electric trains. The authorized fund of the venture was made of 60% cash deposit by the Stadtler and 40% in kind contribution by JSC Belkommunmash, the production is organized in the leased Belkommunmash spaces, and the entire project, including tax benefits, is regulated by a special Presidential Decree No 322 of July 20th, 2012.
Referring to the EU and the U.S., the President was restrained and constructive, which implies, the resumption of a dialogue trend will be preserved. In particular, Lukashenko said that Belarus wants to have “normal and good relations” with the West and called upon the EU and the U.S. to abandon the sanctions. Lukashenko regards regional security issues as a platform for a new dialogue (transit of energy resources, fighting cross-border crimes and illegal migration).
Simultaneously, Lukashenko emphasized that the Eurasian integration project remained a priority for Belarus, and that he would not abandon this foreign policy line. Such Lukashenko’s approach is known as a ‘pendulum’ policy, which is often used by the President as the most suitable and proven tool to help keeping him at power. The upcoming presidential elections in 2015 force Lukashenko to resort to this tool once again.
President Lukashenka has met with the head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov, who visited Minsk and the Minsk Automobile Plant. Minsk has always sought to have independent links with Russian regional elites, partially, to compensate for the Kremlin's diminishing interest in Belarus. In recent years, Belarus’ contacts with the Russian regions have been extremely intense. However, with some leaders of Russian regions, primarily heads of large republics, communication was more difficult to build. As many analysts in Minsk suggested, Minsk could regard contacts between President Lukashenka and the head of Chechnya as an additional communication channel for relieving tension in relations with the Kremlin. However, most likely, a trusting relationship with Kadyrov is a value for Minsk as such, provided Kadyrov’s broad business and political interests, and a high degree of autonomy for the Chechen leader from the Kremlin.