8 December 2019, Sunday, 13:48
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Instinctive Somersaults

Instinctive Somersaults
Valeryj Karbalevich

The Belarusian leadership got involved in a risky game.

On October 9, well informed Moscow newspaper Kommersant published an article under the symbolic title "The fate of the Union State is at Stake". It follows from the article that despite the Belarusian officials' assurances of inviolability of the state sovereignty, the process of "deepening integration" as directed by Russia is in full swing.

It turns out that 16 out of 31 scheduled "action plans" of economic integration have been agreed upon by the governments of Russia and Belarus in deep secrecy from society. They concern unifying currency regulation, accounting, formation of a common agricultural and industrial policy, etc. All contentious issues will be settled at the meeting of the so-called Council of Ministers of the Union State on November 19. Such unresolved issues include agriculture and energy, unification of tax legislation.

The most surprising thing about this process of unifying economic legislation and macroeconomic policy is that none of the parties tries to explain why and who needs it. There is little economic sense in this. For example, how, for example, will coordinating currency regulation with Russia help the Belarusian economy? Or what benefits will our business entities get from the unification of accounting? Why is it necessary to form a common agricultural policy?

The only sense for Minsk to go for such integration is that the Russian economic aid will be renewed in exchange. But here arises one fundamental question about the ability of the political leadership of Belarus to weigh the goals against the means reasonably.

Belarus has been negotiating about joining the World Trade Organization (WTO) since 1993. For 26 years - this is a world record. And it is all to no avail. Belarus is still one of the few countries in the world that is not a member of the WTO. For the Belarusian leadership is afraid of any external control over the state’s economic policy.

And now, with perseverance worthy of better application, our authorities show strange and surprising readiness to adapt to the economic policy of the big neighboring state. Wouldn't the damage caused to the Belarusian economy by such jumping through the hoops be greater than the promised Russian economic aid? It seems that no one has asked or calculated the pros and cons of such a question.

There is a question about why Russia needs it. Initially, Moscow expected to force Minsk to unite politically in order to solve "the problem of 2024" for V. Putin. But, since Belarus refused, the parties agreed on a reduced option of integration, providing only for the unification of economic policy. But what does this bureaucratic fuss with coordinating the legislation give Russia?

Now, the Kommersant newspaper gives an answer to this question. According to an informed source in the Russian leadership, the idea is "to move in the political direction". That is, when the economic legislation is unified, there will be a question of creating supranational bodies of government, and after that - the political integration. It was obvious from the very beginning. For there is no other sense for Russia to coordinate the economic policy.

In other words, "deepening of economic integration", the model "two countries - one market" is a trap that Russia tries to drag Belarus into. Official Minsk, being vaguely aware of the danger, tries to outwit Moscow somehow. Signing the documents with declarative content, it tries not to take on specific obligations, hoping for the resumption of economic assistance. However, it would be very interesting to know the content of those 16 "action plans", which have already been agreed upon.

In any case, the Belarusian leadership has got involved in a risky game. And there is a great danger that it will lose it. Restricting the freedom of pursuing one's own economic policy, Belarus may not receive appropriate compensation. But will it be possible to put things in reverse afterwards?

Why hasn't Minsk learned anything from the history with the agreement on creating the so-called union state? It is by appealing to it that Moscow forces Minsk to form supranational bodies and political union. After all, A. Lukashenka voluntarily signed this document 20 years ago, moreover, he was its initiator. And now the Kremlin is using it for blackmail. Now history may repeat itself.

Interestingly, this process of deepening economic integration is taking place against the background of a minor information war, which broke out between Minsk and Moscow.

Over the past three weeks, Aliaksandr Lukashenka has twice expressed the idea that our country participated in numerous wars that affected Belarus against its will, "it was not our own wars, but we came to grief". Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev called such a statement strange. Natallia Eismant, spokeswoman for Lukashenka, reacted quickly to this statement. And then the pieces criticizing D. Medvedev appeared on ONT and STV channels.

ONT's piece blames Russia for the war of 1812 and the First World War. It remains to take the next step, to admit that the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was one of the factors that triggered the Second World War.

It is clear that it is a thankless task to look for logic in political mythologems. Nevertheless, the new attitude towards the Great Patriotic War (WWII) creates a number of paradoxes and contradictions from which the Belarusian ideological front workers should somehow bluff their way.

If the last war was somebody else's war for Belarus, the Belarusians are innocent victims of it. But the postulate about the nation-victim destroys the heroic myth, which has been cultivated in the public consciousness for more than 70 years. The victim nation and the hero nation are different images. How to combine them? And the concept of "heroism" in relation to someone else's war sounds like a certain dissonance.

The next paradox. If the Great Patriotic War is not ours, why is the October Revolution ours? With the fact that the past war has been preserved in the historical memory of the people, and the Bolshevik revolution - hasn't. That is, having said "A", one should say "B", take the next steps, get rid of the colonial heritage, look for the roots of the Belarusian identity in the history.

In any case, the thesis about "not our war" can be considered as a soft attempt to free oneself, to distance oneself from the Russian ideological discourse. The appearance of the film "Witnesses of Putin", which is quite critical of the Russian president, at the Listapad film festival, can be considered in the same row.

The attempt of the Belarusian leadership to get rid of the Russian influence in ideology, to become more independent in foreign policy (A. Lukashenka's visit to Austria) and the course of deepening economic integration with Russia are the opposite trends. They contradict each other. This is not balancing or maneuvering, but instinctive somersaults from one side to the other, impulsive pulling of different levers.

Valeryj Karbalevich, Free News