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Recent negotiations prove informative and fruitful

President Lukashenko’s meeting with the President of the Republic of Bashkortostan, Rustem Khamitov, fits seamlessly into sequence of Belarusian-Russian contacts at various levels
By Vasily Khromov

Our relationship within regional co-operation once concentrated on trade. Now, industrial co-operation, joint ventures and holding companies are being emphasised. As we might expect, the meeting covered various spheres, with the Belarusian President praising new projects.

“It’s important to fully support these initiatives and to decide new directions, creating joint products which are in demand not only in Bashkortostan, but in third countries.”

Of course, traditional trade ties remain valuable. He added, “To meet the needs of your economy, Belarus is ready to extend its range and increase supply of necessary industrial products.”

Partnerships in science and innovative technology are also to be encouraged, with liaisons formed regarding machine building, energy saving, medicine, molecular biology and information technology.

The conversation was interesting, useful and frank, even extending beyond the borders of regional affairs and touching on interstate co-operation. Of course, everything is interlinked, with so many nuances. The President remarked ironically, “In difficult times, sometimes even ambassadors cannot decide what’s going on...”

His reference was to the Russian Ambassador, H.E. Mr. Alexander Surikov, who has occasionally given the Minsk media strange statements, to put it mildly. The President continued, “We’re ready to co-operate with Russia on democratic principles regarding trade. We’re yet to create our Single Economic Space but, sadly, some statements are currently being made which could destroy it. What did we create it for? To work with our heads held high and to protect our manufactures, to protect our people and to make it possible for everyone to be equal within this Single Economic Space. All our documents are based on this...”

Mr. Surikov has previously noted that ‘we should return to the question of introducing a single currency, as the Belarusian system would not survive a second crisis’. His comment is so bizarre that one cannot help but wonder if he has been authorised to say such things. Does the thought of Kudrin’s ‘success’ keep him awake at night? He also loved to make fantastic forecasts.
The President referred to the distinguished guests from Ufa, saying, “The crisis has brought us a great rise in production, despite energy prices almost rising 5-fold over five years. There is no economy which could withstand such a blow. We are with you in the Union State. As soon as the rise of customs duties on imported cars was announced, to protect Russian manufacturers, our people removed up to $3bn. On top of this, there have been consequences to the global economic crisis. That’s the reason — not inefficiency of management.”

Mr. Lukashenko then continued, “We believe that privatisation and other issues relate not just to the economy but to a wider policy. We can’t be mistaken in our intentions; we are absolutely open, especially to the Russians. We chose this course long ago. We endured a very difficult period, with harassments on every side, but we lived through it. This is why we should build our relationships carefully for the future and choose our paths with care.”

Mr. Khamitov answered that, just a couple of days previously, he had met Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin, discussing the development of Belarusian-Russian relations. He noted, “I said that I was going to meet you and he conveyed the warmest greetings, saying that we should build relationships with Belarus, working together very closely. We’ll act only on these principles.”

It may seem that the President’s arguments against Mr. Surikov’s statements occupied most of the meeting, but it was not so; negotiations were informative and fruitful, touching upon a wide range of issues regarding co-operation between Belarus and Bashkortostan. Mr. Khamitov said that Bashkortostan has already begun using our forage harvesting combines, but more are needed than expected. Other Belarusian equipment is now being assessed for possible assembly; tractors are currently assembled in Sterlitamak, with hundreds produced, while thousands are needed. Forestry machinery is also in demand in Bashkortostan, and the area has used Belarus’ experience of reconstructing dairy farms to develop its own programme. Belarus’ agro-town model is now being studied in the same way.

The Head of the Republic invited the President to visit the region at the beginning of 2013, for the World Junior Ice Hockey Championships. Later, there will be the Youth Olympic Games, with teams from 35 to 40 countries taking part, including Belarus. The President has ordered squads to begin training already.

At the end of the working meeting, the President of Belarus warmly bid farewell to the delegation, thanking them for their understanding and loyalty to the Union State. He even slightly extended his hand to Mr. Surikov, as we have a common goal: to strengthen ties between Belarus and Russia.
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