Belarus makes concessions to the Russian dairy lobby
The Russian National Union of Milk Producers (“Soyuzmoloko”) on February, 20 published an open letter addressed to the Russian Ministry of Agriculture and the Minister of Agriculture and Foodstuffs of Belarus Mikhail Rusoy requesting to regulate the relationships between the two countries in the diary market immediately. “Soyuzmoloko” informed that the selling prices recommended by the Ministry of Agriculture of Belarus for the Russian market were “disastrous”.
“Soyuzmoloko” proposed to delete full cream milk powder and whey powder from the list of dairy products supplied by the Belarusian enterprises to Russia until the end of 2012, making appropriate adjustments to the balance of trade. The organization also believes it is necessary to increase the indicative prices for imports of butter and skimmed milk from Belarus. Regardless of such obvious protectionism, Belarus did not step into the battle field. On 21 February the Deputy Minister of Agriculture Elena Skrynnik reported, that the proposed foods could not be removed from the balance due to the fact that the principal issues of cooperation within the Customs Union have already been agreed upon. However, Belarus confirmed its readiness to adjust the indicative prices and supply volumes of dairy products to the Russian market immediately in order to prevent oversupply and dumping of the market.
Therefore the emerging conflict was immediately extinguished by loyalty of the Belarusian side. Belarus has demonstrated its willingness to have a dialogue. It implies that the leadership is not ready for a following round of trade wars, thereby confirming weak positions of Belarus in the CES and in the CU and its dependence on the goodwill of the Russian leadership.
Over the past year, military-political relations between Minsk and Kyiv have become complicated. Due to their high inertia and peculiarities, this downward trend would be extremely difficult to overcome.
The root cause of the crisis is the absence of a common political agenda in the Belarusian-Ukrainian relations. Minsk is looking for a market for Belarusian exports in Ukraine and offers its services as a negotiation platform for the settlement of the Russo-Ukrainian war, thereby hoping to avoid political issues in the dialogue with Kiev. Meanwhile, Ukraine is hoping for political support from Minsk in the confrontation with Moscow. In addition, Ukraine’s integration with NATO presupposes her common position with the Alliance in relation to Belarus. The NATO leadership regards the Belarusian Armed Forces as an integral part of the Russian military machine in the western strategic front (the Baltic states and Poland). In addition, the ongoing military reform in Ukraine envisages a reduction in the number of generals and the domestic political struggle makes some Ukrainian top military leaders targets in politically motivated attacks.
Hence, the criticism of Belarus coming from Ukrainian military leadership is dictated primarily by internal and external political considerations, as well as by the need to protect the interests of generals, and only then by facts.
For instance, initially, the Ukrainian military leadership made statements about 100,000 Russian servicemen allegedly taking part in the Russo-Belarusian military drill West-2017. Then the exercises were labelled quazi-open and military observers from Ukraine refused to provide their assessment, which caused a negative reaction in Minsk. Further, without citing specific facts, it was stated that Russia was building up its military presence in Belarus.
Apparently, the Belarusian and Ukrainian Defence Ministries have entangled in a confrontational spiral (on the level of rhetoric). Moreover, only a small part of the overly hidden process has been disclosed. That said, third states are very likely to take advantage of the situation (or have already done so). This is not only about Russia.
The Belarusian Defence Ministry officials are restrained in assessing their Ukrainian counterparts. However, such a restraint is not enough. Current military-political relations between Belarus and Ukraine are unlikely to stabilise without the intervention of both presidents.