Russia saves strongman Lukashenko from complete isolation
Alexander Lukashenko, the President of Belarus, has recently supported the development of integration within the scope of the Customs Union and the Eurasian Economic Community. Russia responded with a positive reaction immediately. Experts started saying that the relations between the administration of Russia and Belarus would improve.
The cooldown period in the relations between Russia and Belarus started when Lukashenko refused to recognize the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Afterwards, the two countries had gas, milk and other scandals. As a result, Russia decided not to support Lukashenko (at least publicly) at the presidential election in Belarus in 2010.
Belarus then suffered from the currency crisis. Russia's former Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin released several negative remarks about the economic model of Belarus. Nevertheless, the relations between the two countries have never come to a standstill despite complications.
The process of integration became stronger after the establishment of the Customs Union and the creation of the Joint Economic Space. The Eurasian Economic Community decided to give Belarus a loan of $3.5 billion. Russia approved the initiative, but it still seems that top officials are fighting for pieces of cheap Belarusian public property.
However, the relations between Russia and Belarus have been improving recently. Low duties on Europe-made cars were raised to the Russian level on July 1, as it was promised before. Belarus is currently in talks with Russia's financial organization about opportunities for new loans on the security of the shares of Belarusian enterprises.
In October, the two countries signed the agreement about the construction of the nuclear power plant in the Grodnensky region. In November, Russia and Belarus are to sign a number of other agreements in the field of oil and gas shipments and other moot questions in the energy industry. At any rate, Lukashenko stated that all of those questions had been settled.
Thus, it may seem that the "big fight" between Russia and Belarus is drawing to its end. In the meantime, the situation in Belarus remains quite intense. On October 20, the official and the market value of the Belarusian currency were equalized, which marked the drop of 189 percent since the beginning of the year. The collapse of the national currency led to the inflation rate of over 80 percent, whereas salaries remained virtually unchanged.
As for the above-mentioned integration, the opportunity for Belarus to integrate with Russia and Kazakhstan may lead to positive and negative changes for the troubled nation. One of the conditions for participation in the Joint Economic Space includes the abolishment of liabilities for businesses to sell 30 percent of currency income to the state. Belarus is not ready to take up this option because it may extend the currency crisis and therefore aggravate the economic condition in the country even further.
Therefore, the Belarusian administration tries to correct the terms of their stay in the EEC. The Customs Union committee received amendments to the currency regulation treaty within the scope of the EEC. Minks asked to preserve the 30-percent mandatory sale of currency income to residents before January 1, 2017.
The financial authorities of Belarus hope to stabilize the rate of the national currency in five years.
It goes without saying that this year's events in Belarus resulted in the growth of opposition sentiments in the country. The "revolution in social networks" conquered young people's minds. Many silent actions of protests were held in many cities of Belarus, but the actions eventually came to nothing owing to weak organization and resistance of the authorities.
One may conclude that the Belarusian opposition has not used the chance to make the name for itself а again. The Belarusian president understands that: he initiates more and more restrictions to practically all actions that are not coordinated with the authorities. In the beginning of October, the Belarusian deputies passed the bill, which toughened the requirements to organizers of mass events. The bill equated flashmobs of the Belarusian opposition to pickets.
The parliament of the country received amendments to the law "About State Security Bodies" (State Security Committee, or KGB, and its local departments). The new amendments specified the possibilities for the president of the republic to control special services. The document particularly says that the president is entitled to decide when KGB officers can resort to arms and military equipment.
It is worth mentioning that many of those, who were convicted on the cases connected with the events of December 19, 2010, are still jailed.
The terms of the new stage of integration with Russia and Kazakhstan and the economic consequences that it will lead to the residents of Belarus will not show any influence on the structure of political and socio-economic relations in the country. The society will find itself under the pressure of the authorities.
If the relations between Russia and Belarus eventually improve, it will mean that Strongman Lukashenko will avoid the complete isolation, at least in the east.