Lukashenko’s visit: will Belarus to guarantee Ukraine’s security from Russia

About noon today Petro Poroshenko will host the AP Alexander Lukashenko at the talks tet-a-tet. This is the second meeting of the Ukrainian and Belarusian presidents this year and the second official visit of Lukashenko to Ukraine during President Poroshenko. Initially, as already I wrote “Today”, it was to be held in December of last year. But at the initiative of the Ukrainian side, the visit was postponed because of the position of Belarus at the UN General Assembly. In mid-November last year the Minsk initially tried to block consideration of the resolution on human rights abuses in Russia-annexed Crimea, and then Belarus became one of the 23 countries that voted against. Poroshenko and Lukashenko this year seen in April, they together paid tribute to the victims of the tragedy at Chernobyl and held talks. But diplomatic etiquette and they wore rather a semi-official character. The meeting is held in the framework of the official state visit of Lukashenka to Ukraine. And even in Belarus say that the main topic of discussion will be the economy, in Kiev, do not hide their distrust of Minsk, planning to focus on the upcoming Russian-Belarusian military exercises “West-2017”. As a threat they are perceived not only in Ukraine but also NATO. According to the military, these exercises can use as cover. It is not excluded that at the end of the part of the Russian contingent may remain in Belarus for further blackmail of Kiev and member countries of the Alliance.

Money does not smell. In the official announcement of the press service of the Belarusian President said that the main theme of Lukashenka’s visit to Ukraine will be economic and trade cooperation: “Attention will be paid to the state and prospects of cooperation in the economy, including in such areas as trade, investment, industrial cooperation, a petrochemical complex, energy, agriculture and transport and logistics industry”.

The presidents will have to seal the agreements reached at the meeting of the intergovernmental Belarusian-Ukrainian mixed Commission on trade-economic cooperation, which was held yesterday in Kiev. According to Deputy Prime Minister Gennady Zubko, the sides agreed to export oil via the Ukrainian pipeline to Belarusian refineries, to organize a joint Assembly production of tractors “Belarus” and combine harvesters “Gomselmash”, to release cargo motor vehicles and deliver freight wagons, spare parts and other products of heavy engineering.

A separate topic of the talks will be cooperation in the field of agriculture. “Today Belarus is an important trade partner of Ukraine in the agricultural sector. For five months of this year the trade turnover of agricultural products between our countries amounted to $203,9 million and increased by $66.4 million compared to the same period last year. Given that Ukraine has a positive balance in the agrarian trade with Belarus for the period by $178.3 million,” – said Deputy Minister of agriculture on European integration Olga Trofimova.

In Belarus, we are exporting residues and waste from the food industries ($54.8 million), oilseeds ($21 million), products of grain and cereals ($19,1), meat and meat products ($18.2 million), cereals ($17.7 million), oil ($11.3 million). Import – prepared or preserved fish products ($2.8 million), products of the milling industry ($2.1 million), products of processed vegetables and fruits ($1.3 million), salt ($0.8 million), condensed milk ($0.7 million).

18 Ukrainian enterprises, according to Trofimovoj, supply Belarus with livestock products. As many Belarusian companies export their products to Ukraine. And, as noted by the Deputy Minister, Belarus is ready to increase supplies of agricultural machinery to Ukrainian farmers, Kyiv will support the creation of joint ventures in this sector in Ukraine.

The crisis in relations. Trade and economic cooperation, of course, an important aspect of bilateral relations. But compared to the topic of security, especially after the illegal annexation of Crimea and Russia launched a military aggression of the Kremlin in the Donbas, fades into the background. The press service of Lukashenko said that Poroshenko want to discuss the settlement of the situation in the Donbas. Belarus in this process do not want to lose the status of a peacemaker, therefore, is quite critical of the statements by American and European politicians, in particular U.S. Secretary Rex Tillerson that “we should not be handcuffed to Minsk.”

But if earlier, Lukashenko could use the Minsk process to whitewash its image of the dictator of the West, announced a joint Russian exercises “West-2017” all crossed. In Ukraine do not hide their distrust of Belarus for this reason. Perhaps the theme of the upcoming Russian-Belarusian exercises are not much like Lukashenko, talking about it still have.

“Ukraine is with Russia at war, so the Russian saber rattling from the territory of Belarus Kiev can not be seen as a manifestation of partnership. The dialogue is in any case better konfliktovaniya; but it is clear that now the relations between Ukraine and Belarus came to a crisis point. The most vivid demonstration of this was the call by the Ukrainian Ambassador to the foreign Ministry of Belarus due to expressed concerns about the Russian-Belarusian exercises. The Ambassador obviously explained Minsk’s concern Ukrainians; now turn Lukashenko to explain to Ukrainians, against whom he is going to “be friends” with Russia”, – said Today the first Deputy Director of the Institute of world policy Serhiy SOLODKY.

In the exercise “Zapad-2017”, which will be held 14-20 September, with participation of up to 13 thousand soldiers on both sides. But according to NATO officials, the number may be deliberately reduced. In Ukraine has repeatedly stated that the exercises can use for aggression not only against Ukraine but also against Europe, which borders Russia. “There is a huge movement of troops and maneuvers. Only for the transfer of personnel ordered 4 thousand cars. This is a very large group and, of course, conducting such exercises on the border with Ukraine is a threat,” – said the Minister of defence of Ukraine Stepan Poltorak.

Russia could use “the West-2017” as a cover. According to the chief of the General staff Viktor Muzhenko, part of the Russian troops after exercises can stay on the territory of Belarus. Experts say that under the guise of training exercises may occur the creation of a group of troops, as in Georgia and in 2014 near the border with Ukraine. “When we created the whole group of forces, which later allegedly was not there and supposedly they came to the territory of Ukraine. That is, create a beachhead, and from the North threatens the territorial integrity of Ukraine. It cannot be called a threat but is a risk. In any case, this fact can be used to further political pressure on Ukraine to force Ukraine to make some concessions. I see this as the main danger,” said Today the Director of military programs Razumkov Center Nicholas Sungurovsky.