Minsk’s attempt to benefit from the conflict between Moscow and Washington failed
On 21 November an anonymous source in the military and diplomatic circles of Russia told the news agency “Interfax” that Russia could place “Iskander” missiles in Belarus.
Sudden deterioration of the relations between Russia and the USA over placement of missiles in Eastern Europe, culminating with the statement of Russian President Medvedev on 23 November about a potential withdrawal of Russia from the treaty on the reduction of offensive weapons, created a certain political effect in Minsk, i.e. it resulted in a harsh sentence to human rights defender Bialiatski.
The most logical explanation of such a harsh sentence would be the desire of Belarus to demonstrate loyalty to Russia in its conflict with the United States. On the following day, 25 November, President Alexander Lukashenko and Russian leaders discussed a number of issues in Moscow inter alia, military cooperation within the Union State of Belarus and Russia.
While pronouncing harsh verdict to Bialiatski the Belarusian authorities tried to earn benefits from the deteriorating relations between Russia and U.S. However the result of the Belarusian-Russian negotiations on November 25 in Moscow shows that the attempt was rather a failure than a gain for Belarus.
However, the lack of explicit details and results of these talks on military co-operation makes us doubt that Belarus managed to “sell” well its demonstrative break of the relations with the West (which have been complicated anyway). Belarus acted at its own risk, bearing in mind that on 23 November a Russian envoy to NATO Dmitry Rogozin called the plans to deploy missiles “Iskander” in Belarus a “fiction”.
Therefore, the harsh sentence to Bialiatski has not yet opened any new political or economic opportunities for Belarus – rather the other way around – it has significantly narrowed the space for political maneuver.
The country's leadership has instructed the local authorities to raise minimum wages at enterprises by the end of 2019 to BYN 1,000, which would lead to an increase in the average wage in the economy as a whole to BYN 1 500. The pace of wage growth in 2017 is insufficient to ensure payroll at BYN 1000 by late 2017 without manipulating statistical indicators. In order to fulfil the president’s order, the government would have to increase budgetary expenditures on wages in healthcare and education, enterprises – to carry out further layoffs and expand the practice of taking loans to pay wages and restrict investment in modernisation of fixed assets. In 2010, the artificial increase in wages led to a threefold devaluation in 2011, an increase in the average salary to BYN 1500 will not match the capabilities of the economy and would lead to yet another devaluation.