Russo-Ukrainian exacerbation poses threats to Belarus

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August 17, 2016 10:34

A radical deterioration in the Russo-Ukrainian relations has devalued Minsk as a negotiation platform, which was one of the few foreign policy achievements for the Belarusian authorities. In addition, destabilisation in Ukraine may deepen the socio-economic crisis in Belarus, and enhance Minsk’s dependence on the Kremlin.

The diplomatic break between Moscow and Kiev over Crimea and the waiver of the visa-free regime between the two states is likely to prompt million Ukrainian migrant workers to return to Ukraine. Belarus may be exposed to an influx of Ukrainian migrant workers, which is likely to deepen the crisis on the Belarusian labour market. However, the majority of migrant workers may remain in Ukraine. Amid dim outlook for a visa-free regime with the EU, if these workers do not find jobs on the domestic market, Ukraine is likely to face massive social protests. The latter may very quickly translate into political demands to restore relations with Russia. Even at the cost of giving up Crimea. Political instability in Ukraine, which is one of the major export markets for Belarusian goods, is likely to exacerbate financial and economic crisis in Belarus and increase Belarus’ dependence on the Russian market and the Russian financial support.

The break in political communication between Kiev and Moscow cancels Minsk as a negotiating platform, which is the main asset in the Belarusian foreign policy. Hence, the West may somewhat lose its interest in normalisation with Belarus. That said, the Belarusian authorities would be prompted to deepen the military-political cooperation with Russia.

The Belarusian authorities are likely to use all possible channels to contribute to the Russo-Ukrainian stabilisation. However, Minsk has lesser opportunities than in 2014: the Belarusian authorities have lost Moscow’s trust and have not formed a strategic partnership with Kyiv. In case of political instability in Ukraine, Belarus is likely to enhance border security at the Belarusian-Ukrainian border. In addition, there is a slim chance that Minsk may become more sensitive to meeting the EU requirements as to the Belarusian domestic policy in order to preserve a dialogue with the West.

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According to Belstat, in August 7,600 people were dismissed, including 4,800 civil servants. Dismissals of civil servants were due to the optimisation in the public administration by up to 30%. Some civil servants would retain their job however would lose the status of a civil servant. Vacancies on the labour market are likely to reduce in number, thanks to the optimisation, the state administration would increase wages for public servants. The payroll fund for retained employees is likely to increase and some former state employees are likely to get jobs in affiliated organizations. The optimisation of the state apparatus should complete by January 1st, 2018, and some former civil servants are likely to join the ranks of the unemployed.

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