The expert told how the Russian-Ukrainian crisis helped to Minsk
Belarus is extremely interested in how to solve its economic problems. The socio-economic crisis is forcing Minsk to maintain a pragmatic foreign policy, not focusing on any ideological preferences.
MOSCOW, November 23 — RIA Novosti. Belarus is trying to normalize their economic situation, therefore, the withdrawal of Russia from the Ukrainian market has given Minsk a chance to occupy this niche and to obtain significant economic benefits from the crisis in relations of Moscow and Kiev, said the Deputy head of the Centre for studies in countries of the near abroad Affairs, Russian Institute of strategic studies (RISS) Oksana Petrovskaya.
“Belarus is very interested in how to solve its economic problems. The socio-economic crisis is forcing Minsk to maintain a pragmatic foreign policy, not focusing on any ideological preferences. Economic interests now put in the forefront. As for the economy, it is here that Belarus and Ukraine, probably, have made the best progress during the years of crisis, and this is connected primarily with the Russian withdrawal from the Ukrainian market. The Belarusians managed quickly enough to use this window of opportunity and benefits for themselves to implement it and to develop trade-economic relations with Ukraine,” — said Peter at the round table “Ukraine and post-Soviet countries: the relationship three years later from the beginning of “euromaidan” in MIA “Russia today”.
According to her, trade turnover of Ukraine in the first half of 2016 began to take second place after Russia in the export of Belarusian goods and fourth largest importer. Peter said that “Belarusians are not here to build a long-term perspective, they just saw an opportunity, and they used it”.
The expert stressed that the trade turnover between Belarus and Ukraine is growing in volume but reduced in monetary terms. This is due to energy prices and the fact that the economic situation is quite complicated. “To say that Belarusians benefited from the Russian-Ukrainian crisis, too. While we can say only that they survive in these conditions and are looking for a niche for survival, a niche in the Ukraine, they found in the crisis with Russia”, — said Peter.
In her words, “relations between Minsk and Kiev after the beginning of the Russian-Ukrainian crisis have intensified”. “However, it should be noted that these relationships were before the crisis, since it is a neighboring country, it is also necessary to understand the philosophy of the Belarusian leadership, which most of the heat refers to the close of the Slavic countries, the three sisters — Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. This thesis continues to resonate in the rhetoric of the President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko today,” she continued.
The expert added that before between Belarus and Ukraine there was a competition for Russian resources and cooperation with Moscow, the crisis has fundamentally changed this situation.
“I must say that the vectors used to be different, Belarus was part of the CSTO, Ukraine has sought NATO, there was democracy in Belarus is a fairly centralized management system that did not give such opportunities are quite close approach. Again, the crisis is very much changed, and circumstances were such that allowed Belarus and Ukraine over the past two years to enhance their cooperation,” added the analyst.
She noted that “mostly Belarusians are imported to Ukraine petroleum products”, this niche has opened due to the fact that “Russia has stopped supplying energy resources to Ukraine, Belarus gradually began to occupy this niche, forcing Russian suppliers from the Ukrainian market”.
The bridge to the West.
The expert said that, despite the activation, we should not overestimate this cooperation, as it is necessary to consider also the motives of the Belarusian leadership.
“In addition to economic prerequisites that undoubtedly play a crucial role, there are other things that I would like to use the Belarusian leadership. I believe that it would like to use Ukraine as a kind of bridge to the West, as Ukraine is moving closer to the West, the Belarusian leadership declares a so-called multi-vector foreign policy, and these vectors change very often. I would associate this foreign policy of Minsk with a pendulum, which moves in one direction and then the other, and the farther it moves in one direction, the more it moves away from the other side,” — said the expert.
She added that “since 2012, Belarus has become to intensify its relations with the West, it began even before the Ukrainian crisis.” And the Ukrainian crisis was a window of opportunity that allowed Minsk to implement the ideas for improving relations with the West. “It is clear that the position of Ukraine plays a big role in how you look on Belarus in the West, that is distanced position, the position of such an observer, a peacemaker, which was taken by the President of Belarus, it plays a role and increases the role of Belarus in the West,” said Peter.
The expert noted that before the crisis, few imagined that such Belarus, now it is known as a country that is trying to reconcile Russia and Ukraine, “it is, of course, talking about the Minsk format and arrangements”.
“In addition, we can say that Ukraine has become for Belarus is actually the airbag. The trade turnover of Belarus in all directions fall. If we look at 2016, to destinations such as tractors, beer products, grain, mineral fertilizers, here we will see the growth,” said Peter.
She added that even the Belarusian media noted this idea of “brotherly Ukraine has extended a hand of help because she buys our products.”
“The role of a transit corridor in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine stopped flights, “Belavia” here arose and has greatly expanded their carriage in many Ukrainian cities. Ukraine is now fighting for Belarusian transit, here they compete with Lithuania, we are talking about the Ukrainian ports, in which Kiev would like to attract Belarusian products both in transit ports,” said Peter.
The government and society.
“I would like to emphasize the ratio of government and society. There is a power that takes a certain position, and I would also strongly not overestimated, we cannot say that political contacts between Minsk and Kiev is very close, mainly is the contact at the level of the Ministry of foreign Affairs, such close ties between the administration, the presidents of the two countries is not observed, I think that the Ukrainian elite do not really trust Belarus. Belarus doesn’t occupy a particularly important position in the foreign policy of Ukraine”, — said Peter.
In her opinion, the Belarusian society in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict sided with Russia, not Ukraine.
“A number of sociological studies have shown that in this confrontation, the Belarusians first of all support the Russians. In addition, the society did not support the “Maidan” and everything that is happening in Ukraine. These riots are condemned in Belarus, and, of course, do not bring any support”, she concluded.
In the trade-economic relations, too, not everything is rosy, because there are also trade wars, and introduced protectionist tariffs, said Peter. But the Belarusians to defend their economic relations in all possible ways with all their partners through the courts, through various regulations, through their varied use.