Russia risks losing Central place in Belarusian politics. But Minsk could suddenly find that he is not “closest ally” of Moscow.
Hard to say what you really think in Moscow on Belarusian foreign policy, but the Americans, watching from afar, has already made findings: in 2020 Alexander Lukashenko will actively promote in their country the interests of the United States and China. First, to balance the pressure from the Kremlin; second, to be able to play on the contradictions of the three major world powers — as in all previous years he played on the contradictions between Russia and Europe. American edition of Foreign Policy writes: to hold Putin back from the actual impact on the processes in Belarus, Lukashenko invites the United States and China, trying to play the old game with new players.
“Alexander Lukashenko, the 65-year-old authoritarian President of Belarus, is intensifying geopolitical risky trick that he does with Russian President Vladimir Putin, inviting China and the United States to exercise influence in his country as a way to avert political Union with the Kremlin, writes Foreign Policy. — It is expected that after the planned visit to Minsk, Secretary of state Mike Pompeo, which was postponed because of the worsening tensions in Iraq, the scale actions, Lukashenka will increase.”
Indeed, in Minsk now actively discussing the fact that Mike Pompeo will make a postponed visit to Belarus and Ukraine after the forum in Davos, which will end on January 24. Alexander Lukashenko likes to talk about the fact that the Belarusian foreign policy should be “multi-vector”, that is, Russia is, of course, friend and brother, but you need to talk with all, not getting stuck in Moscow’s interests.
Belarus ‘ relations with the United States in 2019 thawed. In September, Washington and Minsk has announced that it will exchange ambassadors after a 10-year hiatus. It is clear that Americans are ready to support the former Soviet Republic not out of love for Lukashenko, and to protect their interests in Europe. First of all in Poland and Ukraine, the first of which Belarus is a natural buffer between it and Russia. It is known that Pompeo’s visit to Minsk will be the study us-Belarusian summit with participation of presidents. It is clear that meeting trump and Lukashenko will not “stone” in Russian, “garden”, and hefty “cobblestones.”
Also experts of Foreign Policy indicate that Belarus positions itself as a “bottleneck”, a key node on the border with the EU for an iconic infrastructure initiative of the Chinese leader XI Jinping’s “New silk road”. China is becoming more active as a patron of Belarus, opened her credit line of $15 billion and providing operational loan of $500 million last month after a similar loan Moscow was not issued due to disagreement on integration.
Unlike Washington, Beijing does not require the democratization of Belarus, as well as the transfer of control over certain state structures, as desired by the Kremlin. In recent years, the Chinese money in the country was funded by new roads, factories, luxury hotels in Minsk, the railway communication with Europe and a huge industrial Park “Great stone”, which became the Chinese offshore area.
Losses and concessions
Official Minsk has to revise its foreign policy paradigm not only because of pressure from Russia, but because of a number of his own foreign policy failures. Simply put, Lukashenko — “bummer” in relations with Europe. In fact, all the “warming” after 2014, has been reduced to the lifting of European sanctions in 2016 — as a reward for carried out without reprisals presidential election. But then the Europeans demand the abolition of the death penalty and return of civil liberties, and the official Minsk insists that we should not meddle in our internal Affairs, it’s better to develop the economy.
With China also not so simple: in 2019, the trade turnover between Minsk and Beijing increased by 40%, to $3.7 billion, but with absolute advantage in favor of China — Belarus sold goods China only $570 million and then there is unofficial information that the Belarusian government is negotiating the sale of Chinese both refineries. For alleged state-owned shares has requested $16 billion In the negotiations if the Russian businessman Mikhail Gutseriyev as the owner of the Mozyr refinery.
Of course, it is unlikely that Lukashenko wants to give the “family silver”: these two plants effectively form one third of the Belarusian GDP. But if the agreement with Russia on duty-free oil supplies still does not work, then it really would be more profitable to sell them, and there — let the Chinese with the Russians about oil agree. Taxes and excise duties all the same, because in the Belarusian budget will go.
The unexpected resignation of the Russian government and change of policy means that Belarus will have to build relations with the closest ally in new ways. “Belarus news from Russia means that Kremlin is spent with the head in the internal agenda. The purpose of the integration of dance was not the Anschluss, but in the first place — reducing the costs less attractive the asset (RB). Now, this task in the Belarusian direction simply becomes the only one. Players who will drown in the forced unification at any price in Russia will be less, because it is clear that the king is for transit authorities in 2024-m is not necessary, — wrote in his Telegrams-channel of the Belarusian political analyst Artiom shraibman. — It will be a hard accounting of the conversation. Moscow turns into collective Babych. Unlike the GDP of Belarus, its independence in this embodiment, under a lesser threat than if the Kremlin has purposefully worked to undermine her. Now the option of “okay, I live in the market” will be acceptable for Russia.”
Now the Russian leadership will not be “forced integration” and to create conditions for ordinary Belarusians themselves like becoming a part of the Russian Federation. Putin said in the message: “Russia is ready to strengthen cooperation with all interested partners, we do not threaten anyone and do not seek to impose its will.”
But Russia has not abandoned ambitions to become a center of attraction for former Soviet republics. Russia promises to make the social leap: support of motherhood and childhood, families, teachers, doctors, etc. Monthly payments for children under 7 years, free universities in the regions, repay government mortgages, a substantial increase of salaries to state employees, etc. and all this against the backdrop of the real Belarusian unemployment, lower incomes, closures, extinction of villages and the peaceful collapse of benefits.
Not by chance a member of the Commission for amendment of the Constitution of Russia Bogdan Bezpalko has made a proposal to enshrine the right of the annexation of regions of Belarus and Ukraine to Russia. “I would really like to see the right to irredenta reunification of the Russian world — is enshrined not just in law but in the Constitution of Russia. Then any region, not only Ukraine, but Belarus would have the opportunity of joining Russia on the basis of this provision of the Constitution, not only the provisions about the right of Nations to self — determination,” he said.
And so, against this background, Lukashenko once again begins to sell Belarusian loyalty, only the main buyers now are not the Russians and Chinese Americans. The first need a reliable logistic platform on the border with the EU. A second controlled buffer zone between Poland and Russia, an independent state, in which the impact of the Americans is sufficiently large. Well, “the head of Belarus” just need to get on its territory crossed the interests of China, USA and Russia. Because he’s better than any politician in the world knows how to play to such conflicts, consistently making profit and strengthening its own power.
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