The old year ends for Belarus new challenges. Before the country’s leader Alexander Lukashenko is a difficult choice: either to lose the economic benefits of an ally of the Russian Federation – or to give up part of sovereignty in favor of the single structures with Moscow.
The option before Lukashenko puts Russia. She agreed to continue to subsidize Belarus with cheap oil – but only in exchange for closer integration within the Union state. Talking about the common customs, the emission center and other institutions that blur the already shadowy border between Belarus and Russia.
This is what was discussed in heavy negotiations of the two presidents that took place on 25 and 29 December. The results of the meeting is not commented upon, which further pressurized atmosphere. But opponents of Lukashenko and Putin even stated that the leader of Belarus on December 31, “under the tree”, will announce the entry of his country in Russia.
“Country” is understood, whether this will happen.
How it all began
“Country” has already talked about the background of a new crisis in Russian-Belarusian relations.
From January 1, Russia is changing the structure of sales of oil: gradually resets the export tax and increases the tax on extraction. This manipulation will not affect the price to foreign buyers of oil: mirrored tax will replace the fee in the final cost of the product.
But for those who received “black gold” without export duty – and this, of course, Belarus, its price will increase in proportion to the tax.
To introduce the internal “tax on oil” plan for six years – gradually reducing the export duty and increasing the internal rate.
But already at the first stage of this process in Belarus panicked, assessing their losses until 2024 to $ 10.5 billion. And remember that because of the previous Russian tax maneuver lost oil almost five billion.
Earlier Minsk, receiving oil at domestic price (that is, without export duty) was processed into fuel and sold abroad at market prices. Including Ukraine. And in General, cheap oil gave a significant competitive advantage of the Belarusian economy, affecting the final price of goods, which, by the way, is overwhelmed, and our country.
With the introduction of these tax benefits expire, and with a boomerang effect across the economy of Belarus, which is based on processing industry and export-oriented.
Therefore, the reaction of the President of Belarus was apocalyptic. He spoke about the destruction of their country and trying to tighten it in the Russian Federation.
“Get the oil, but let’s destroy the country and join Russia. I always ask the question: things in the name of what are made? Have you thought about the consequences? How it will look in our and your country and the international community? By hook or by crook incorporate a country within another country”, – was indignant Lukashenko.
Interestingly, in Russia do not deny the plans for the incorporation, although not in such radical form mentioned but father. Earlier the head of the government Dmitry Medvedev has outlined what exactly they want from Belarus.
“There are two scenarios of integration, – said at a meeting of the Council of Ministers of the Russian Federation of 13 December Medvedev. – One conservative, while maintaining the contours of the Union state which was created without increasing the level of integration to the limits established by the Treaty of 8 December 1999, without the formation of all the institutions, which are incorporated in this contract. The second cooperation option, the advanced option is based on increasing the level of integration to the limits established in the contract, while increasing the interdependence of economies and the possibility of providing assistance and support during the construction of the Union, solve a variety of issues that relate to integration. Russia is ready to continue to move forward with the construction of the Union state, including the establishment of a single emission center, a unified customs service, court and the audit chamber”.
Judging by the actions of Russia and Lukashenka’s words, “conservative” variant of the Moscow ceased to arrange. Try to understand why.
Why Moscow wanted to integrate Minsk
Belarus has too privileged, according to Russian officials, the situation: she opened the vast markets of the Russian Federation, it enjoys the internal prices for raw materials. Thus in its economy Lukashenka of Russian oligarchs will not let me and all the extra income it distributes at its own discretion.
This situation could suit Moscow in the growth phase of the economy. But after the history of Ukraine and sanctions, the resources of the Russian Federation began to decline. This raised the question, and justification of any such benefits to Minsk? Recall that attempts in some way to “cut” the Belarusian privileges (for example, the price of gas) increased just after the onset of the Ukrainian crisis.
Moreover, Belarus, taking advantage of the sanctions against Russia, started openly to make them, importing the European thepresence in Russia under Belarusian labels (between countries operating a free trade zone). So there were the famous Belarusian Minsk shrimp or ham.
That is – Minsk did what you planned to do Ukraine after signing the Association agreement with the EU. But then Russia stopped these encroachments by counter-sanctions against Ukraine. With Belarus this could be done – Minsk is a member of the Eurasian economic Union. It is the closest military ally and partner of Russia.
However, as you can see, already and military Alliance in recent years is not for Moscow the decisive factor. After all, it can be easily destroyed, if the Belarusian elite decides to play the “Ukrainian game” – and the Kiev story is revealed clearly. The only guarantee that this will not happen is a closer merger of the two countries. In which the actions taken separately Lukashenko and his entourage had anything in the external orientation of Minsk will not change.
Another reason why Moscow was desired closer Union with Minsk is an opportunity to declare, that created a new state. It’s by far raise the falling ratings of the Russian government and will be perceived as “new Crimea”.
And here are opportunities for changes to the Constitution that will allow the same Vladimir Putin to head the new education longer than is necessary under the existing Constitution. So the government can solve “the problem 2024” – regular elections of the President of Russia.
Therefore, the subject of the Union state, which in Russia until 2014 did not thought, suddenly began to pedal Moscow itself.
But Lukashenko, who a few days ago he denounced the Russians in an attempt to absorb Belarus, suddenly stopped and spent two hours meeting with Vladimir Putin.
Five bags of bulbs and secret negotiations
On the eve of New year, Lukashenko met with Putin twice on 25 and 29 Dec. And both times in the Kremlin, which already hints at the attempts of the Belarusian leader “to mollify” Russian counterpart on a compromise.
However, both meetings took place without briefings and press conferences – with the exception of a handshake and a few unimportant phrases before you close the press.
For the second rendezvous with Putin, Lukashenko even brought a “bribe” – five bag of Belarusian potatoes and a piece of bacon, declaring it a new year’s gift. The network even made a joke that in this way between the two countries began the program “oil in exchange for food”.
But more interesting, that was the day before this meeting. 28 December, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev signed the order about creation of working group which will prepare the integration of Russia and Belarus.
The status of this group is very high – it will be headed by the Minister of economic development of Russia Maxim Oreshkin. It also will include representatives of all agencies – government, the state Duma, the Federation Council, the accounting chamber. What is significant – while there are no Belarusians.
The Russians claim that the group was created by a joint decision of Putin and Lukashenko. And the latest on yesterday’s short briefing in the Kremlin did not deny. So, the beginning of deeper integration, Moscow has pushed through. However, nothing prevents the Belarusian President to negotiate on the modalities of the process – which can pass quickly or drag on for many years.
Apparently, this is the time of integration and extent of compensation for the Belarusian economy – and traded the leaders of Russia and Belarus for the second match in a row. What they eventually came – hard to say: the results of the meetings are not commented. And only in the media appear speculation, what is really going on behind closed doors in the Kremlin.
Thus, the “Moskovsky Komsomolets” says that Lukashenko is under oil pressure from Moscow, agreed to resolve the issues spelled out in the Treaty establishing the Union state. It is the unification of legislation, the creation of a single Parliament, Cabinet of Ministers and other organs of Supreme power and the transition to a common symbolism and a common currency.
It is significant that at a hockey game, organized after a meeting in Moscow, Lukashenko did not go – although Putin was his name.
“He proposed to Alexander Lukashenko to play, to get back on the ice today in one of the two teams, but he refused. It can be understood, soon the New year, he said that he needed to be home in Minsk, there are a lot of questions, Affairs current. Before the New year they are always very much. But we agreed that we will see him and play together and the ski will ride,” – said Putin yesterday.
Russian media have previously suggested that if Lukashenko (avid hockey player, by the way) agree to the match after meeting, then the agreement between the countries reached. However, the Belarusian leader went home, not even communicating with the press. Apparently final decisions yet, or Alexander Grigorievich need to discuss the issue with colleagues before giving a definitive answer to Putin.
“Declare on the entry to Russia for the New year”
Meanwhile, the network has already said that the entry into the Russian Federation – the issue is resolved. Message influential telegram channel about the Russian policy “Nesigur” was quickly picked up by opponents of Lukashenko and Putin.
The channel reported that in Minsk are preparing for the resignation of Alexander Lukashenko. And at noon on 31 December, the Belarus TV channels has put the broadcast emergency message from the President to the people.
Note, however, that through the “Nesigur” previously were thrown against Lukashenko that had not found its confirmation (for example, serious illness).
And officially in Belarus appeal to the people nobody confirms. But if it does not succeed, it will be interesting to hear what they say Lukashenka that evening, congratulating his country a happy New year.
However, in Russia are saying it was about “annexation” of Belarus.
While Putin and Lukashenko talked behind closed doors, the press Secretary of the President of Russia Dmitry Peskov fended off the journalists. He stated that there are no plans to include Belarus in Russia does not exist, and the stages of integration of the two countries are clearly described in the Union contract.
“There is no need to be unfounded, we need to remember 1999, the document on the basis of which we — Russia and Belarus — and became a Union state. There are certain milestones — this fiscal Affairs, etc., these steps towards integration. Of course, we are not talking about some kind of joining, etc. It is rather a movement towards each other, this is not a movement in the same direction”, — said Peskov.
So will include Belarus into Russia?
Knowing the temperament of Lukashenka on the one hand, and understanding the dependence of Belarus from Russia, on the other, it can be concluded that the integration process will be started. But the Belarusian leader clearly you will find arguments to stretch it for time and to negotiate the maximum number of concessions from Russia.
However, Russia is unlikely to allow the process to go as he went from the 90s: formally, without reference to reality and imitation Union. This time in Moscow are serious and try to knock out of the Minsk concrete terms by mutual fusion of.
The alternative may be a gradual shutdown of RB from the super-privileges in trade and the transfer of the Republic to the level of the standard members of the Eurasian Union. And apparently, Minsk is a very unpleasant since he so vehemently resists the initiatives of the Kremlin.
However, even this low level of integration can not cross the value of Russia with its vast market. The example of Ukraine showed that the EU is to replace this market not. And turn from Russia toward the West is fraught with the closure of production facilities. Moreover, in Belarus they are more processing than raw material in Ukraine. And the EU is mainly configured to import from the countries of the former Soviet Union raw materials than the finished products (he has successfully produced himself).
Therefore, the supporters of the version “Lukashenko will go to Europe” – and those are especially numerous in the Ukraine – is unlikely to be happy about. Belarusian President puts the economy at the forefront, and not allow her to ruin discretionary decisions. Unless, of course, Europe will not offer him more. Which is highly doubtful – looking at the same Ukraine.
Recall the events in Ukraine 2013. Then the Kremlin has put before the President the condition – or you sign an Association Agreement with the EU and then you can forget about cheap gas and our markets. Or not sign it, and then get a discount on gas, great credit, and other “favors” with the prospect of closer integration in Eurasian structures. Yanukovych, as we remember, then chose Russia because Europe did not give obligations such as those assumed in Moscow.
And immediately received the Maidan in Kiev.
Knowing Lukashenko, who is much more tightly controls the situation in his country, the Yanukovych controlled it in Ukraine, the Kremlin hopes that the Belarusian leader will take the conditions of Moscow. And without risk to the independence square in Minsk.
With regard to the possible absorption of Belarus by Russia, a source in expert circles close to the Kremlin denied these rumors.
“Takeover rumors – it’s just a game of nerves, – says the source. – And with both sides. Russia scares Lukashenko, and Lukashenko is afraid of the West – say, look, Moscow will Annex us soon, so let’s be friends. Well, plus the rumors pick up in Ukraine and in the West, to show the aggressiveness of Russia. In fact, no plans for annexation and there was not. In the Kremlin there is a desire for closer integration – up to the introduction of the Belarusian ruble. But without Belarus ‘ accession to Russia. There is a twofold task. On the one hand, more tightly bound Minsk to the Russian Federation. Sooner or later, Lukashenko will go, but his successor could change course on Pro-Western. Therefore, the need to guarantee immutability of the course. The second task is to work out the mechanism of the introduction of the ruble as means of payment in all countries of the EEU. But there is no certainty that Lukashenko will do to meet these wishes, not in words but in deeds. He will haggle and try to strengthen relations with the West and with China. In Minsk, expected in the near future the conclusion of a very large package of contracts with China. And thus align the economic situation. That is, it is unclear whether in practice running closer integration”.