Under the conditions of the new reality
In 2016, security, economic diversification and the enhancement of Belarus’ status as a peacemaker will be a key aim
Impossible is nothing
In the context of Russian-Belarusian relations, special attention will be paid to jointly overcoming the crisis situations which our economy faced, especially against the background of the unsettled foreign economic market and falling oil prices.
Minsk and Moscow consequently plan to implement a package of anti-crisis measures as part of the Union State. The Belarusian side is ready to take a direct part in Russia’s import substitution programmes.
At present, Belarus’ major risks are in the economic sphere. With this in mind, Minsk primarily aims to diversify the sales markets of Belarusian produce as much as possible. These are the goals of the exporting firms’ marketing departments, Belarus’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Foreign Ministry. Moreover, this year, the state will focus on economic reformation and modernization. Only in this case, will it be possible to enhance the inflow of foreign investments and technologies.
Belarus begins 2016 — which is not straightforward as far as the global economy and politics are concerned — as a state which has significantly increased its regional influence and significance. This was helped by Minsk’s peacemaking efforts in organising a negotiation venue to find ways to settle the Ukrainian crisis and the country’s neutral military-political position which it is expected to maintain in the coming year. The Belarusian leadership has already announced its readiness to act as a mediator in settling the Russian-Turkish conflict caused due to the shooting down of a Russian Su-24 bomber aircraft. Minsk believes it has valuable experience of organizing similar talks: i.e. in the format of the Customs Union, Ukrainian crisis and the EU summit in summer 2014.
Last year, the EU suspended economic and political sanctions on Belarus until late February, while the USA froze economic restrictions until late April 2016. Russia experiences a tough period in relations with some western states and institutions and, with this in mind, it would probably need the Belarusian ‘sanction’ experience. The Russian delegation has decided not to attend the first session of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly, in Strasbourg. In turn, the status of a PACE specially invited member has not yet been returned to the Belarusian delegation.
New situations require new institutional approaches in relations with western states and, in general, Minsk is interested in strengthening economic interaction with the West. In this respect, the development of a new agreement on partnership and co-operation (taking into consideration our country’s membership with the Eurasian Economic Union) seems a promising step. These will not damage Belarus’ obligations within the Eurasian Economic Union, which still remains a major foreign political and economic priority for Belarus.
Minsk hopes that its Eurasian Economic Union partners will treat an anti-crisis plan proposed by Belarus seriously. Belarus insists not only on the immediate elimination of all restrictions and withdrawals in mutual trade between the Eurasian Economic Union’s participants, but also on the strengthening of industrial co-operation and co-ordination of policy in other economic spheres. Belarus also places much hope on participation in the Silk Road Economic Belt. After the Chinese Chairman — Xi Jinping — visited Minsk last May, our country received a strategic role in the implementation of this large scale project in Eastern Europe. Moreover, the Chinese-Belarusian Great Stone Industrial Park is a key cooperative project. These factors encourage the Belarusian authorities to pay special attention to measures aimed at improving the business climate in the country.
The idea of ‘integration of integrations’ remains topical for the Belarusian foreign political agenda. In this context, Belarus will build its relations with other integration establishments — while solving acute problems, including as part of the Russia-Ukraine-EU triangle. Successfully overcoming crises relies on co-operation rather than confrontation.
By Arseny Sivitsky, Director of Centre for Strategic and Foreign Policy Studies