Moscow conditions the parliamentary elections’ recognition with implementation of bilateral agreements
Kremlin promises the recognition of the parliamentary elections in Belarus in exchange for the implementation of bilateral economic agreements. In turn, Belarus will try to get the elections’ recognition and to put off privatization.
On August 14-15, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was on a working visit in Minsk, meeting with President Lukashenko and Belarusian Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov.
The main public message during Lavrov’s visit was Russia’s willingness to recognize the parliamentary elections to be held in Belarus in September. Minister Lavrov vowed to ensure the participation of Russian observers in several observation missions, which will operate in Belarus during the elections, organized by various international organizations: OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, OSCE/ODIHR and the CIS.
However, these political promises by Lavrov should be considered in the context of the ongoing economic bargaining between Belarus and Russia. In particular, Lavrov reminded President Lukashenko to respect previous agreements with President Putin and Prime Minister Medvedev. The most important of these relate to the privatization of large Belarusian companies, in particular, Belaruskali (discussed during Medvedev’s visit in July) and MAZ (discussed during Putin’s visit in May).
On the eve of the parliamentary elections, the Belarusian authorities face with extremely high external pressure, in particular in the economy. Suspended naphtha deliveries from Russia could have very negative consequences for the economy and increase the likelihood of authorities’ failure to fulfill their main political promises about the USD 500 average salary by the end of 2012.
In this regard, the government might make a concession with regard to privatization, as it was in autumn 2011. For instance, it might put on sale non-strategic assets, such as shares in the Belarusian mobile operator MTS. If so, privatization of industrial enterprises will be delayed until the last moment.
President Lukashenka has met with the head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov, who visited Minsk and the Minsk Automobile Plant. Minsk has always sought to have independent links with Russian regional elites, partially, to compensate for the Kremlin's diminishing interest in Belarus. In recent years, Belarus’ contacts with the Russian regions have been extremely intense. However, with some leaders of Russian regions, primarily heads of large republics, communication was more difficult to build. As many analysts in Minsk suggested, Minsk could regard contacts between President Lukashenka and the head of Chechnya as an additional communication channel for relieving tension in relations with the Kremlin. However, most likely, a trusting relationship with Kadyrov is a value for Minsk as such, provided Kadyrov’s broad business and political interests, and a high degree of autonomy for the Chechen leader from the Kremlin.