Yuri Shevtsov, a political expert, head of the Belarus Center for European Integration Problems speaks with Imhoclub (Latvia) about political prospects of Minsk and its relations with neighbors.
In his words, the preparations for the next presidential elections in Belarus are held smoothly like never before. “It is an unprecedentedly calm election campaign in the history of the presidential elections of Belarus. The main reason, I think, is that foreign actors having their own interests in Belarus are not trying to destabilize the country. Of course, for final assessments, let’s wait for the voting day. So far, we see neither usual media campaigns against Lukashenko nor any big opposition events involving eastern politicians and diplomats.”
Assessing the country’s mid-term goals, the expert said: “Key economic priority is to continue the program of industrial modernization, to overcome the export decline. It is necessary to put into force major investment projects in time. First of all, it is necessary to construct two power units of the nuclear power plant and turn the Chinese-Belarusian industrial park into a really operating industrial district with investment of at least 2-3 bn dollars. The political priority is not to let the Ukrainian conflict spillover into Belarus and to soften the negative influence of the tense Russia-West relations on the country. It is necessary to keep the Ukrainian conflict within its northern border and not let the two anti-Russian powers in the East Europe – Ukraine and Baltics – unite. Otherwise, the tension between the West and Russia may break their relations for decades and even centuries. ”
Assessing the developing integration projects with Moscow, Shevtsov said: “These projects are successful, though uneasy. It is a result of a conscientious cultural and geopolitical choice of Belarus made through referendums in the middle of 1990s. This choice must not be questioned. Otherwise, it will lead to the situation worse than it is in Ukraine now. It is necessary to correct the details of Belarus’ participation in them. Now, I think, it is of fundamental importance for Belarus to maintain peace in its territory. This allows using some effects of the Ukrainian crisis: stimulate transit, develop military and industrial facilities, upgrade its international importance, which will alleviate the burden of the current problems for Russia.”
"I think, our country is committed to a similar policy. The details of that policy should be verified from specific responsible officials. I would like to see a more active foreign policy of Belarus after the elections, if everything is normal. We should help Russia settle our common problems, first of all, to calm Ukraine. In Ukraine there is an endemic crisis. Corrupt state has not disappeared. The last two years’ development has brought the “national radicals” to the political field and made them much stronger,” he warned.
Speaking of the relations of Belarus with the Baltic States, Yuri Shevtsov said: “It is necessary to continue the current policy toward these countries. It is based on the tests and mistakes of twenty years. It is optimal. Belarus should avoid discussions with these countries on ideological issues and the humanitarian cooperation must be balanced too. Belarus should not interfere in the domestic affairs of these countries in future either. No matter how unpleasant many their realities are for Belarus. It is necessary to focus on the settlement of the real problems of regional security. There should be neither any frontline problems nor game with the national minorities.”
"Everyone who tries to voice these problems in Belarus must be stopped by our state machine. The Balts should feel that in practice their security depends not just on their EU and NATO membership, though it is important. Their elites should understand that if Belarus changes, for instance, if it sharply turns to Russia, or, on the contrary, if the Byelorussian nationalists take stronger positions, then they will face real problems. It is necessary to develop economic cooperation. It has a very good basis now: the transport corridors to the ports of Lithuania and Latvia will be modernized without any problems. Vilnius has become a very favorable country for the Byelorussian tourists. This sector must be developed constantly. Klaipėda develops due to the Byelorussian transit – the Chinese park near Minsk and other projects should boost that transit. As the Byelorussian NPP is put into exploitation, it will be necessary to think of how the energy generated by the plant will help develop not only the north of Belarus, but also the bordering Lithuania and Latvia,” Shevtsov stated.