Russian air policing in Belarus confirms the lack of balance in military relations between Moscow and Minsk.
The Customs Union summit revealed crisis of the Russian project of integration instead of success, which is so desired by the Kremlin before EaP summit in Vilnius
On 20-26 September, the active (military) phase of the strategic-level exercises held by the armed forces of Russia and Belarus, entitled ‘West 2013’, were held. The scenario and nature of the exercises leave no doubt that the Russian/Belarusian forces are training to conduct regular military operations, and their potential opponent is the NATO countries bordering with Russia and Belarus.
Over the past ten to twenty years, Belarus has seen a steep rise in the number of local dollar millionaires. This has somewhat undermined the myth of an egalitarian model of society promoted through the Belarusian state propaganda.
The tension between Russia and Belarus after arrest of Vladislav Baumgertner, director general of Uralkali, is growing. Nevertheless, it seems that both parties will be looking to reach a compromise. Neither Minsk nor Moscow are interested in escalating the conflict. The obvious lack of unity in the stances adopted by the Russian elite on Belarus’s actions may contribute to the willingness to reach a compromise.
On 29 July, a Russian company producing potash fertilisers, Uralkali, decided to withdraw from its cooperation with the BKK, which it established together with the Belarusian potash producer Bielkali. Uralkali’s exit from BKK should primarily be seen as a fight for its position on the global potash market.
In 2009, Vladimir Putin, the then Russian prime minister, gave impetus to the establishment of closer relations within what was then a still narrow group of three countries: Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus. Close co-operation is expected to guarantee for Russia that the strong politico-economic influences in this area will be maintained.
The presidents of Belarus and Ukraine, Alyaksandr Lukashenka and Viktor Yanukovych, met on 18 June in Kyiv and signed a protocol on the exchange of documents ratifying the Ukrainian-Belarusian agreement on the state border of 1997. The two countries also entered into a number of agreements regulating co-operation in the frontier zone, ecology, information exchange, and forestry.
The first four months of this year saw a strong increase in the trade deficit of Belarus, to the level of US$-1 billion; compared to the same period last year, this indicates a deterioration in the balance of over US$2 billion. In this situation, there is growing pressure to draw on the still-substantial foreign exchange reserves (which currently stand at about US$8 billion), some of which could still be used to repay this year’s public foreign debt (about US$3 billion).
Despite the conflicts and frictions in their bilateral relations, Russia has for years regularly invested in Belarus. Moscow’s support has become an important factor allowing the Belarusian economic model to continue, which in turn helps maintain the stability of the Belarusian political system.