Lukashenka fails to hit jackpot
9:31, — Politics
The host of the the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council summit tried to look cool on April 29, but didn't achieve what he wanted.
Moscow is not ready to demonstrate generosity for the sake of the creation of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). Crimea has hit its economy. Another reason is that the malcontent allies have nowhere to escape to from the Russian submarine. They will have to sign the treaty, observer Aliaksandr Klaskouski writes on the website Belorusskiye Novosti.
The Belarusian ruler made a bold remark at the beginning of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council meeting: If the parties are not ready to implement the arrangements, the issue of the EEU should be discussed in ten years.
It was an effective cold shower for the high-ranking Russian guest. Vladimir Putin, who agreed there were some differences and proposed to look for a compromise, didn't look bright in this context. However, the professional KGB officer has his own methods to press on opponents, the politologists says.
The host of the summit did not hide his sarcasm: “The forward-looking proposals concerning the implementation of agreements in ten years, by 2025, sound at least strange.” Lukashenka called not to turn the integration into the process for the sake of the process.
Kremlin rides full speed
Minsk's stance is logical: don't skip stages, let's create at least the proper Customs Union at first.
“There should not be any restrictions in trade among its members, however sensitive it may be,” Lukashenka said on April 29. Well, what can be more sensitive for Russian than energy?
Russia's economy is based on energy sales. But skimming the cream off at the cost of restrictions in the free trade regime is not honest if the parties have agreed to form a zone of four freedoms, Minsk thinks.
Perhaps, even Belarusian babies have learnt that Moscow must cancel export duties on oil products if they want the process to be honest. This thesis can be heard everywhere.
However, the Russian side blames Belarus for its unwillingness to remove barriers (this is true: severe competition can beat a great number of domestic enterprises).
To be short, the contradictions are like the Gordian knot. It's hard to untangle it, and Putin doesn't want to demonstrate generosity and cut it (it's expensive!), but insists on implementing the Eurasian project, his affair of honour, on the schedule.
“There are all grounds to suppose that we will sign the treaty on the target date,” Interfax quotes Putin as saying after the summit.
Face-to-face talks about Ukraine
The three leaders were supposed to discuss the situation of Ukraine, but at the time of writing, there was no information about the results of the discussion. We can only guess it was very hard and didn't answered all questions.
Lukashenka doesn't want to look like the Kremlin's puppet. He is de facto launched the electoral campaign presenting himself as a strong leader protecting his country from threats from all sides.
Besides, distancing himself from the Kremlin on the Ukrainian issue gives him a chance to improve relations with the West. Minsk counts that the West will be less strict in the face of Russia's aggression, questions about democratisation and human rights in Belarus will be moved into the shadow, and Lukashenka will meet a better attitude due to his rather independent stance.
But there are not enough economic resources for such independence. You can't be stubborn when the collapse seems inevitable without Moscow's aid. The Kremlin can hurt Minsk at any moment, and hurt it badly.
Moscow doesn't remove oil duties
As for the treaty on setting up the Eurasian Economic Union, the chairman of the Board of the Eurasian Economic Commission Viktor Khristenko said last evening that all main differences on the draft agreement had been solved.
However, it looked like putting on a good face. Khristenko added the common oil and gas markets would become operational no later than (though it's right to say no sooner than) in 2025. Again ten years, the period that caused acid remarks from Lukashenka earlier.
“By 2025, the issues related to cooperation in the area of oil, oil products and gas will be settled in line with the current agreements signed in 2010 and in correspondence with the additional bilateral agreements,” Khristenko said.
In simple terms, Moscow and Minsk will continue solving the issue on duties on oil products without official agreements. It means Moscow plans to continue keeping Minsk on a short leash.
Lukashenka, Nazarbayev and Putin continued talking behind the closed doors, but it was clear already that no miracles will happen. In the meantime, the intention to sign the treaty on the establishment of the Eurasian Economic Union in Astana on May 29 remains in force. The forecast of the author of these words seems to come true: The new union will be presented to public on the announced date in traditions of the Soviet construction industry – with many defects that will result into a new long nerve-racking story.
Behave yourself and clap hands
The preliminary results of the Minsk summit show: Minsk can hardly count on generous pay for its loyalty as an ally and a deeper integration.
Yes, the Belarusian official leader shows off trying to impress his voters, but he finally has to make significant concessions to the Kremlin. Firstly, he cannot resist much if Russian subsidies give 15%, or even more, of the country's GDP.
Secondly, after Crimea, the EEU project looks like a more or less civilised form of “collecting lands”. Putin has showed he can use a bad variant.
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