Since the second half of 2016, Russian-Belarusian relations take the form of new economic “war” and to resolve differences before the New year and failed. The main stumbling block was the price of Russian gas exports, which was contested by the parties last year and was never consistent. In addition, the Belarusians raised the prices for transit of Russian oil to the EU, and in response the Russian government decided to restrict oil supplies to Belarusian partners. In the end, two members of the “Union state”, the Eurasian Union and key military allies joined in 2017 as adversaries in an economic “war” and foreign policy dispute.
The economy above all else?
We must say that one economy disputes between Russia and Belarus is not limited. The deeper economic contradictions, the more there is a disagreement in politics. For example, the Belarusian authorities still, despite pressure from the Russian side, have not created a single border system tolerance. This allows some Russians who are banned from leaving the country, using a visa-free regime of Russia and Belarus, to go through this “brotherly Republic”.
Never was established in the city of Grodno military base, which they would like to see Russia. So though not directly stated, but it is clear that the Russian authorities in response to this have stopped flowing foreigners from the Belarusian side. They are motivated by the fact that on the border of Russia and Belarus there are no international border crossings, through which could drive foreign nationals — despite the fact that formally it is a “Union state of Russia and Belarus”, and also about the two countries, including in the common Customs Union.
Another case in this story — the decision by Alexander Lukashenko’s decree to accept as a “working draft” Customs code of the Eurasian Union, shortly before it is signed by the heads of other member States of this organization, a meeting which the Belarusian leader without explanation ignored. It’s funny, but it does not prevent Lukashenko to demand from the crisis Fund of the EurAsEC for money to pay off debt to Russia for gas supplies, accumulated for the year 2016.
Well, the most scandalous example — three citizens of Belarus, who collaborated with the Russian editions, which recently arrested, instituted against them criminal cases under article 130 of the Belarusian Criminal code, “Incitement to racial, national, religious or other social hatred or discord”. The Russian foreign Ministry then tried to relieve the tension that the mouth of its spokesperson Maria Zakharova called “filthy things” used in relation to Belarus, the terms “nedogosudarstvo” and “nedonarod”.
However, it is no secret that in Russian politics, many leaders who fully share the assessment of the arrested journalists. Suffice it to recall the controversial speech leaving in January 2017, his office Director of the Russian Institute of strategic research Leonid Reshetnikov, in which the thesis “nedogosudarstva” was almost word for word repeated. And this despite the fact that RISS is a structural subdivision of the presidential administration.
So the economy, of course, in bilateral relations remains in the first place. But, as the examples given above, are increasingly the subject of dispute are the military-political or — to use the trendy word in recent years in Russia is a geopolitical problem.
For Russia, Belarus is in modern conditions is obvious geopolitical anomaly that the Kremlin is cooperating rather by inertia, continuing relationship and extending projects created after the collapse of the Soviet Union, mainly, by the way — as a Federal state — that appeared on the Belarusian initiative. On the one hand, this is hardly the only Russian faithful military ally, in addition he “Outpost” in the West. The other independent state of the people, in whose existence some part of the Russian political leadership simply believes.
We can assume that in their understanding Alexander Lukashenko (and its predecessors) is just lucky adventurers, in the Wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union created a formally independent state, now a parasite on the confrontation between Russia and the West. At the same time, Belarus still does not recognize any of the “achievements” of Putin’s Russia: neither the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, nor the annexation of the Crimea, nor a puppet of the LC and the DNI in the East of Ukraine.
These contradictions, taking into account the desire of Lukashenka to secure at least limited independence from Moscow, will not go away. However, the example of Ukraine shows that Russia with great difficulty tolerate the autonomy of those whom the Kremlin regards as its satellites. And it allows to predict that the confrontation between Moscow and Minsk in 2017 will continue, despite numerous calming review, in accordance with which Belarus and Russia make peace, as soon as agreed on oil and gas.