The Kremlin may accept partial normalisation of Belarus-EU relations
Official Minsk is attempting to defuse a potential conflict with the Kremlin over normalisation of relations with the West. Meanwhile, Moscow is ready to accept the improved relations between Belarus and the EU and the US in order to reduce financial aid to Belarus. However, in order to preserve Belarus in its orbit, the Kremlin may launch media attacks on Belarusian officials.
Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makey told Kommersant newspaper that Minsk did not have a ‘dim view on that tomorrow the EU will open all doors and embrace Belarus in its arms’, but that there was a trend towards normalization of relations.
The Belarusian officials are attempting to pre-empt / neutralise potential criticism from the Russian media. Foreign Minister Makey emphasised that Belarus sought to mediate rather than to defend interests of one partner: "We have never tried to play along with one side to the detriment of the other side. We are sincerely interested in that our region was peaceful and stable, but not at the expense of our relations with Russia. As corny as it may sound, the three brotherly nations have been living together for centuries”.
The Belarusian authorities are attempting to minimize the consequences of the Kremlin’s reaction to Belarus’ attempt to restore relations with Western capitals.
The main reason why Belarus is seeking normalisation is the poor financial health of the Belarusian economy. The Belarusian authorities are seeking funds to pull the economy out of recession. Since the Kremlin’s resources are languishing, the Belarusian authorities are counting on the normalization of relations with Western capitals to receive financial bonuses.
This involves Belarusian officials playing on Brussels’ fears that Belarus is heavily dependent on the Kremlin. Foreign Minister Makey noted the complexity of the economic situation in Belarus and emphasised one of the main objectives for improving dialogue and relations with the West: “Belarus may appeal to international financial institutions for a loan, because the economic situation is really difficult”.
In addition, the Belarusian authorities are raising the issues, which concern Western capitals. Foreign Minister Makey confirmed Lukashenka’s previous statements regarding the deployment of the Russian airbase in Belarus: "The airbase will raise ire towards Minsk and Moscow. Moreover, there are so many air bases in Belarus, that hundreds of aircrafts could be accommodated in a few hours. It is, therefore, more important for us to talk about how to be prepared to give a prompt response in case of rising tension in the region or threats to Russia and Belarus’ security”.
Presumably, this issue is on the agenda for talks between the Kremlin and Minsk, but the agreement has not been reached yet. At least, there were no official reports, as both sides had been evasive about the negotiations results.
According to official Minsk, the Kremlin is likely to agree to postpone the consideration of the deployment of a Russian airbase in Belarus. Allegedly, the Belarusian authorities have played on the Kremlin being involved in the conflict in Syria.
Minsk officials will continue to use a dual strategy towards the Kremlin and Western capitals. The Belarusian authorities are interested in pursuing the normalisation process with Brussels and in receiving financial assistance.
The Labour and the Tax Ministries are considering the possibility to include persons engaged in some economic activity without forming a legal entity in the social security system. When the decree No 337 comes into effect, the number of private entrepreneurs is likely to reduce due to the possibility of reducing the tax burden when switching to a tax payment as an individual. 95% of self-employed, including PE, pay insurance premiums on the basis of the minimum wage. The number of self-employed citizens is expected to increase, the number of insurance contributions to the pension system from PE will decrease, the number of citizens who will pay a fee to finance government spending will decrease by several tens. Self-employed citizens have the alternative not to pay social security fees and save resources for future pensions, which, given the gradual restriction by the state of pension requirements could be a more long-sighted option.