Belarusian authorities get a summer break
On June 7th, Russian Ambassador to Belarus Alexander Surikov held a press conference in Minsk.
Ambassador Surikov’s statement will be used as an excuse by the Belarusian authorities to delay the implementation of a new bilateral agreement on privatization. The probability that the oil supply agreement for Q3 will be signed is high, although Belarus is unlikely to get a loan from Russia, because it would be tied to implementation of joint projects.
Ambassador Surikov’s appearance is linked to the activation of the Russo-Belarusian relations and integration processes in the post-Soviet space in the frameworks of the CIS, Collective Security Treaty Organization and the CES in late May - early June. Ambassador’s press conference meant to draw attention to the Kremlin’s priorities in bilateral projects on industrial, financial, and military cooperation with Belarus, as well as to re-define Russia’s requirements.
In particular, Surikov said that in the autumn Belarus and Russia were anticipated to sign agreements to establish a joint holding company, merging MAZ and KamAZ motor works. In addition, Ambassador said that Russia was ready to give a loan to Belarus for enterprises’ modernization only if joint projects were launched. Finally, Surikov reiterated Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu statement about the imminent establishment of Russian military compound in Belarus.
Regarding oil supply to Belarus, Ambassador said that Russia will take Belarus’ wishes into account. This implies that Belarus may count on a quarterly or semi-annual agreement for 23 million tons per year. The agreement should be signed by mid-June 2013. Previous agreements in 2013 were signed quarterly.
Thus, highly likely, the oil supply agreement with Belarus will be signed, and Belarus will be granted a delay at least until autumn regarding its commitment to privatize state property. Surikov’s statements will be used by Belarusian negotiators as additional arguments to justify their position.
Noteworthy, Ambassador Surikov’s views are not always in agreement with the Kremlin. Nevertheless, the moderate nature of Ambassador’s statements, as well as the context of recent integration-related events suggests that Belarus has managed to drag the Kremlin in another negotiation round. Most likely, Belarus is using the deployment of Russian military air base and the customs tariffs’ harmonization terms within the CES as negotiations arguments.
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.