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“The favorite tune about the big question”: Why is Lukashenko miffed with Russia?

Alexander Lukashenko. Phot of the Belarusian president’s press office

Alexander Lukashenko’s latest address to the nation and parliament of Belarus can be fairly called “a full rehearsal” ahead of the fifth in the succession All-Belarusian People’s Assembly to be held within the coming months. The president did not even conceal that fact. He explained those present why they had gathered beforehand. The lengthy speech of Belarus leader stopped being as such when he touched upon the favorite issue – the relations with Russia.

Alexander Lukashenko traditionally tried to demonstrate his “multi-vector” foreign policy repeating his idea that Belarusians and Russians are “brothers who live in different apartments.”  At the same time, he again complained that Moscow no longer wants to care for its partners and “not always implements its commitments of the Union State and violates the agreements signed.” Apparently, Lukashenko was speaking about the economic cooperation, not the political one where he sees certain pressure from the Kremlin too. Meantime, he said, the West advocates for a “dialogue with all international partners.”

The president’s long speech on the relations with Russia came down to the idea that Belarus is a self-sufficient and independent state that will not be “a potboy” for Russia. However, judging from the president’s next words it may seem that he does believe in what he says.  Blaming Russia for failing to implement its commitments, the Belarus president has probably forgotten who has been subsidizing the economy of his country for the last decades and who has helped Belarus get a US$2-billion loan. It appears that the president of Belarus is sure that Moscow simply ought to settle all the problems of Minsk and even let it use its resources freely. There is no other explanation to the fact that Lukashenko suddenly expressed desire to buy, or even take without compensation, the Russian oilfields to recover at least 10 million tons of oil annually, paying nothing to Russia in exchange for it. Such statement could make one smile, but for the current appetites of the Belarus leader and his ungovernable desire to bring back the time when Belarus was an oil offshore.

Minsk’s unwillingness to reform its own economy no longer seems surprising, but behavior of the Belarus leadership is turning more and more inadequate.  Minsk is now blaming Russia for all its failures. For instance, the Belarus president blamed Dmitry Medvedev for suggesting launching production of chassis for military trucks in Russia. At the same time, it has turned out that Belarus does not mind selling the factory for a “fair” price, which will seem too high even to a nonprofessional. In fact, it is no longer a secret that Belarus has never had any intention to sell the Minsk Wheeled Tractor Plant.

Last august, Alexander Lukashenko said the country will not sell the Plant, unless three billion dollars are offered (by Russia he meant actually). Meantime, the annual turnover of the Plant is US$100 million. It is evident that no one thought to sell such a profitable enterprise. At the same time opposing the merger of the Tractor Plant and Rostec State Corporation, Belarus made Dmitry Medvedev suggest that the production of chassis is transferred from the Minsk Plant to KamAZ. Belarus has already lost “Rosbelavto” project (merger of MAZ and KamAZ) and failed to sell “Grodno-Azot,” the manufacturer of nitrogen compounds and fertilizers. 

The reasons behind the angry ton of the Belarusian president is clear – he no longer receives from Russia what he would like to. Moscow continues to sponsor the Belarusian economy just not to have on its western borders a situation similar to the one in Ukraine. The Kremlin does not think to reanimate the social and economic model of Belarus. The longer this situation continues, the tougher will be the Belarus leader’s speeches. Soon he may blame Russia for the increased pension age, growing unemployment, devaluation and inflation and so on. He will probably start doing it in a few months at the 5th All-Belarusian People’s Assembly where he will have to explain why nothing from what he promised five years ago has not been done yet.

Pavel Yurintsev

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