Staunton, November 26 – Moscow’s policies are so unpredictable that any further integration of Belarus with the Russian economy would be “dangerous for the independence of Belarus,” Vladislav Inozemtsev says, because it could lead to “trade or gas wars or even to something worse.”
For example, the Moscow economist tells “Naviny” today, “if Belarus categorically refuses to allow a Russian airbase on its territory, then the kremlin could apply to Belarus a harsh economic policy” and therefore “one must be seriously concerned ab out what Russia in its present-day form will do” (naviny.by/rubrics/politic/2015/11/26/ic_articles_112_190353/).
The current Russian crisis will last a minimum of three or four years, and during that time, the ability of Mensk to extract assistance from Moscow will be much reduced. That will lead to political problems as well, Inozemtsev says, and therefore “Belarus must be prepared for difficult times.”
At the same time, the Moscow analyst says, Russia’s economic difficulties will not lead to the disintegration of the country.” Instead, he suggests, “both Russian and Belarusian peoples survive difficulties easier than they do successes. From successes, their heads spin, but difficulties make us ore united and keep us involved in more or less effective activity.”
Moreover, Inozemtsev continues, “Russians do not connect these difficulties with Putin, and consequently for there to be a popular rising in Russia, the standard of living would have to fall a minimum of 30 percent,” something that today is “unrealistic.” And thus Mensk has to make its way with a Russia that is both weakened but not headed toward collapse.
Belarus still has the chance to get credits from Russia because “this question is more political than economic” since Moscow supports Mensk “not so much as a form of assistance to an ally as to create the illusion of the capacity of the Customs Union to function,” the economist says.
“Today,” Inozemtsev says, “Belarus is seeking both to integrate itself with Russia and to maintain normal relations with Europe.” But Vladimir Putin cannot tolerate that for long as his policies in Ukraine show. Therefore, “Belarus will have to choose and either completely integrate itself in the Russian economy or start to cooperate in a real way with Europe.”
Belarus’ choice, of course, depends on the willingness of Europeans for such cooperation and on Mensk’s strategy for dealing with the Russian market, he says. At present, however, the Moscow analyst says that he “does not see such a strategy” on the part of the Lukashenka regime.
As far as the Moscow-dominated Customs and Eurasian Unions are concerned, Inozemtsev says, the two are “viable but meaningless” because their two most important members, Russia and Kazakhstan, depend on the export of raw materials. “Belarus is an exception: it is an industrial and not a raw materials country.” Thus, it might benefit from membership.