Minsk Retains its Internal Policy

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April 22, 2016 18:10

On 8 September, the Chairman of Belarus’ Central Election Commission, Yarmoshina, said that reforming the election legislation was undesirable. Last week, a number of high-ranking officials stated that it was unacceptable to sell Belarus’ national assets. 

The current task for the Belarusian authorities is to maintain the status quo. It is not expected that they will fulfill the political demands both of the West (such as the release of political prisoners and democratic reforms) and of Russia (the privatization of enterprises under the loan program of the EurAsEC).

Last week, Yarmoshina said that there were no plans to transform the standing majority electoral system into a proportional one. Later on, two of the three First Deputy Prime Ministers, Vladimir Semashko and Sergei Rumas, stated that privatizing major Belarusian companies (Belaruskali and BelAZ) would be a crime against the Belarusian people and was not acceptable. 

Such “tough rhetoric” is explained by Minsk’s unwillingness to fulfill the demands of the Kremlin and the West to carry out reforms. At the same time, such demands increase the unanimity within the governmental bodies on the most worrying issue: the privatization of the Belarusian enterprises within the frameworks of agreement on cooperation with the EurAsEC Anti-Crisis Fund. The issue will be discussed during Putin’s visit to Minsk on 31 May. 

As it has already been indicated, the Belarusian authorities have no long-term strategy.

However, there was significant growth in Belarusian foreign trade in the first quarter of 2012 due to favourable terms for trade in oil and oil products with Russia. Minsk wants to derive a maximum short-term benefit from this situation as well as to put off making economic and political concessions. It increasingly uses extremely adventurous but highly lucrative smuggling schemes to re-export Russian oil products without paying export taxes to Russia.

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Belarusian and Ukrainian Defence Ministries entangle in confrontation spiral
October 02, 2017 11:57
Фото: RFRM

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.