9 April 2020, Thursday, 20:09
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Russian Gravy Train Ends for Lukashenka

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Russian Gravy Train Ends for Lukashenka
Photo by Getty Images

The new Russian government may increase economic pressure on the Belarusian dictator.

Oil and gas disputes have questioned the signing of "deeper integration" even before New Year. Now due to the transit of power initiated by Vladimir Putin and the accompanying staff shuffling, the Kremlin, according to some experts, will adjust its policy towards Belarus, writes Aliaksandr Klaskouski in an article for Naviny.by.

What destiny awaits the package of already agreed road maps? If this plan of frenemies fails, how will Belarus live in the new realities without usual Russian preferences?

When the new government is formed and gets into the swing of things, the Russian authorities will keep encouraging Minsk to sign and implement road maps, the expert of Strategy analytical center in Minsk, Valery Karbalevich, says.

"But now the project has a different task. Since Minsk does not agree, especially with the 31st map (providing for a single currency and supranational bodies), this is a good reason to minimize the economic preferences of Belarus," explained the interlocutor of Naviny.by.

He adds when it has become obvious that Russia is not ready to reduce gas and oil prices, the whole sense of negotiations on road maps becomes unclear to the Belarusian party.

On the whole, he believes that "risks for the Belarusian economy have increased" in the light of recent events in Russia.

However, if Putin is going to solve the problem-2024 not by joining the neighbouring country, and "deeper integration" may also stall because of political perturbations in Russia, does it mean that the Kremlin will give Belarus up as a bad job?

Some Belarusian analysts believe that it will not. "There have been statements that all the peripetia now associated with Belarus are caused not by coercion to "integration", but only by the transition to interaction with Belarus based on reduced subsidies and market economy. Really? Having invested so much in Belarus, will Russia let it reduce its dependence on Russian raw materials, crediting of the economy, sales markets, etc? I increasingly doubt it. Russia's interests are still valid..." - Yegor Lebedok writes on Facebook.

Director of the Center for Strategic and Foreign Policy Studies (Minsk) Arseni Sivitski earlier commented on Naviny.by. No matter what scenario of transit of power is chosen in Russia, the Kremlin will continue to increase pressure on Belarus. Moreover, it may take tougher forms. "Deeper integration" is only one of Moscow's instruments, while its super-task is "to bound Belarus even stronger in its geopolitical orbit," says Sivitski.

A blow to the economy is inevitable

According to one version, the pressure on Minsk will ease, while others believe it will increase. Paradoxical as it may seem, Lukashenka will have to decide how to adjust the economy to the new reality anyway.

After all, the Russian leadership has hinted that if Belarus wants gas at the price of the Smolensk region, it should become a Smolensk region or something like that.

This means that Belarus will have to live in conditions of declining Russian financial and economic support. It already hits the Belarusian economy, accustomed to the Moscow support.

Oil is inevitably becoming more expensive, so refineries will stop bringing previous profits to the budget. The prospect of the already half-decayed monsters of the socialist industry consuming a lot of energy and materials becomes even more deplorable. There will be less money for subsidies to the rural, low-efficient industrial public sector. So on and so forth.

How can one survive under these conditions? The easiest answer is to redesign the economy, develop the course of its diversification, and launch a set of reforms.

But Lukashenka once again confirmed his conservative image the other day, saying that "the principles of state economic policy, which we have formed for years, will remain".