President Lukashenko visits Qatar, Prime Minister Myasnikovich goes to Moscow
On 15 August President Lukashenko paid an official visit to Qatar and Prime Minister Myasnikovich met with Putin at a meeting of the Council of Ministers of the Union State in Moscow.
President Lukashenko has gradually transferred the right to negotiate with the key Belarusian partner, the Kremlin, to Prime Minister Myasnikovich. Nevertheless principal political and economic decisions are still made by the President.
Firstly, the visit of President Lukashenko to Qatar meant to improve his image. The president had to expand the geography of his visits, which, after 19 December elections has been particularly narrow. There were no principal agreements reached in Qatar, the parties have signed a number of minor bilateral agreements and made a number of limited declarations of intent with regard to investment.
Secondly, the president needed to compensate for the political effect of the meeting between Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Myasnikovich in Moscow. Russia is a key economic and political partner of Belarus, and trustworthy relationship with the Russian leadership has always been the key for retaining of power by Lukashenko. Given that during the past year the Belarusian President does not enjoy the same level of confidence from the side of Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev, the role of a negotiator has been transferred to Prime Myasnikovich, who thereby increases his political influence.
For President Lukashenko it is important to “blend” the increasing role of Prime Minister Myasnikovich, therefore he uses his international visits (to keep up appearances) and takes full control over the process of privatization. A conference held on 12 July on Customs Union and Common Economic Space showed the Prime Myasnikovich has no control over Russian-Belarusian talks concerning privatization of Belarusian assets. Back then the Prime Minister listed 12 companies negotiations on the sale of which allegedly took place with Russian counterparts, however later the information was denied by Russia. Also, on 18 August General Director of "Belaruskali” announced the unacceptability of loan conditions set by a Russian bank Sberbank and a German bank “Deutsche Bank” with regard to the loan that has been preliminary agreed.
Last week, Belarusian Foreign Minister Makei participated in the foreign ministers’ meeting of the Eastern Partnership and Visegrad Group initiative hosted by Warsaw. The Belarusian FM emphasized Belarus' interest in cooperation in the transport sector, which could be due to Belarus’ desire to export electricity surplus after Belarus finished construction of the nuclear power plant in Ostrovets. Minsk expressed concerns about Warsaw’s stance on the Belarusian NPP, as it refused to buy electricity from Belarus and supported Vilnius’ protest on this issue. Following accusations by the Belarusian leadership and the state media against western states, including Poland, of training "nationalist militants", Minsk did not agree on the visit of the European Parliament deputies from Lithuania and Germany to Belarus and to the NPP construction site near Ostrovets in particular. In addition, the Belarusian authorities have stepped up efforts to enforce education in Russian in Polish-language schools in Grodno and Vaukavysk. Should a rift in Belarusian-Polish relations persist, the Belarusian authorities are likely to step up the pressure on the Polish-speaking minority in Belarus.