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As with the rest of the world, Belarus has been affected by the global economic crisis. However, the main consequences for the country were less economic, but rather political in nature. Although closely connected with Russia, it was not the spill-over of the crisis, such as the reduction in its hitherto ‘miraculous’ levels of economic growth to almost nothing in one year, that hit Belarus hard. Instead, it was Russia's deliberate politics of ‘pragmatization’, directed at its ‘near abroad’ to facilitate compliance of and interdependence with its neighbours, which dramatically altered Belarus's foreign policy landscape. The two principal corollaries of the global crisis for Belarus therefore included the new and irreversible search (successful or otherwise) for diversification away from Russia, and the reinvigorated sense of sovereignty with which Belarus now attempts to rebuild itself domestically and internationally.
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Belarusian Foreign Policy in a
Time of Crisis
Elena Korosteleva
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To cite this article: Elena Korosteleva (2011): Belarusian Foreign Policy in a Time
of Crisis, Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics, 27:3-4, 566-586
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Belarusian Foreign Policy in a Time of Crisis
ELENA KOROSTELEVA
As with the rest of the world, Belarus has been affected by the global economic crisis.
However, the main consequences for the country were less economic, but rather
political in nature. Although closely connected with Russia, it was not the spill-
over of the crisis, such as the reduction in its hitherto ‘miraculous’ levels of
economic growth to almost nothing in one year, that hit Belarus hard. Instead, it was
Russia’s deliberate politics of ‘pragmatization’, directed at its ‘near abroad’ to
facilitate compliance of and interdependence with its neighbours, which dramatically
altered Belarus’s foreign policy landscape. The two principal corollaries of the
global crisis for Belarus therefore included the new and irreversible search (successful
or otherwise) for diversification away from Russia, and the reinvigorated sense of
sovereignty with which Belarus now attempts to rebuild itself domestically and
internationally.
Belarus is one of the biggest mysteries of Europe. Its mystery is not in
cheap gas and oil from Russia, and not in the EU’s offers made with the
best intentions. Belarus’s mystery is in its people, a highly educated and
broad-minded society.
1
We are very lucky that Alexander Lukashenko placed himself at the
forefront of our emergent sovereign nation a commoner of natural
gifts, a people’s person, who intuitively found the most effective and
pain-free path for our development, and who managed to consolidate
our nation and direct it towards solving most pressing problems of our
everyday lives.
2
Global Economic Crisis: What Crisis?
Belarus is indeed one of Europe’s mysteries. Until recently, before the global
economic crisis, it had been deemed an ‘economic miracle’
3
amongst the
Elena Korosteleva is Senior Lecturer in European Politics and Director of the Centre for European
Studies at Aberystwyth University. She is the author and editor of a number of books and special
issues with a focus on democratization and EU foreign policy, including The EU and its Eastern
Neighbours: Towards a More Ambitious Partnership? (2011).
Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics, Vol.27, Nos.3– 4, September– December
2011, pp.566– 586
ISSN 1352-3279 print/1743-9116 online
DOI: 10.1080/13523279.2011.595167 #2011 Taylor & Francis
Downloaded by [Aberystwyth University], [Ms Elena Korosteleva] at 04:52 15 September 2011
restructuring post-Soviet states, showing impressive economic growth for
most of the 2000s. Its annual average growth in gross domestic product
(GDP) was estimated at an enviable 8.3 per cent between 2001 and 2008;
while inflation had been one of the lowest in Europe, exhibiting a strong down-
ward trend since 2007 (see Table 1). The official unemployment rates were at
the same time reduced to a minimum, averaging less than 1 per cent through-
out the decade. Real wages were rising steadily, and levels of poverty were the
lowest among the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
4
In 2007 the world was rocked by the global economic crisis reducing many
hitherto wealthy nations to the ranks of the world’s largest debtors.
5
With the
crisis unfolding worldwide, Belarus, too, belatedly felt its consequences, but
the extent of its impact and nature appeared to be different and less dramatic
when compared with the rest of the CIS (see Table 2), especially the more
exposed economies of Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and Armenia.
6
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) commented that Belarus was
making ‘important headway’,
7
and granted the next tranche of loan without
hesitation. Indeed, in conditions of a possible double-dip recession elsewhere,
and with sovereign credit ratings in many CIS countries considerably down-
graded,
8
Belarus’s standing remained remarkably enduring, even sustaining
limited growth, against the odds, in 2009 (see Table 2), with an upward
trend recorded in 2010 and expected in 2011.
9
It was the only country in
the post-Soviet space that by October 2009 the most critical year for
many economies managed to maintain its ‘B +’ rating, demonstrating
‘high levels of wealth and development relative to peers’, ‘low levels of
domestic and external indebtedness’ and ‘substantial industrial capital stock
and a highly educated workforce’.
10
Essentially, being less integrated into the world economy, Belarus has not
directly suffered from the consequences of the global downfall. Instead, it
TABLE 1
CURRENT AND PROJECTED ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE, 2007 –14 (PERCENTAGE
OF GDP, UNLESS OTHERWISE SPECIFIED)
2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Real growth in GDP (% growth) 8.6 10.0 0.3 3.8 4.4 5.3 6.3 6.9
Nominal GDP (billion Belarusian
roubles)
97.2 128.8 138.4 157.4 178.5 203.0 233.1 269.1
Inflation, end of the period
(% growth year-on-year)
12.1 13.3 10.5 8.0 6.0 6.0 6.0 6.0
Current account balance 6.8 –8.4 11.0 –7.2 –5.6 –4.9 –4.0 –3.4
Export of goods 53.7 54.8 44.3 50.6 50.7 50.4 50.5 50.7
Import of goods 62.7 –64.9 –56.3 –59.1 –57.7 –56.5 – 56.3 –56.1
Balance of trade 9.0 10.0 12.0 –8.5 – 6.9 –6.2 – 5.8 –5.3
Source: ,http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/scr/2010/cr1031.pdf., accessed 22 June 2010.
BELARUSIAN FOREIGN POLICY 567
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experienced its impact mainly through its close relations with Russia. Belar-
us’s macro-economic performance has been strongly reliant on its access to
Russian energy and sales markets. In particular, as Balmaceda observes,
Belarus displays the most asymmetrical interdependence vis-a
`-vis Russia: it
relies for 100 per cent of its gas and 92 per cent of its oil on foreign sources
(mainly Russia), which makes it one of the most energy-dependent states in
all of the former Soviet Union, and one of the most gas-dependent countries
in the world.
11
Nevertheless, it was not the ‘overspill’ of the Russian economic crisis that
actually affected Belarus in times of financial crisis. Instead it was Russia’s
deliberate policy of gradual ‘pragmatization’ of its relations with the ‘near
abroad’, which for Belarus began as early as 2006.
12
The past two years in par-
ticular witnessed a series of dramatic confrontations between the leaderships
of the two countries, reaching a new and unprecedented level of animosity by
the summer of 2010. Examples of unfolding political conflict included the
non-recognition of Abkhazia and North Osetia by Belarus, frictions within
the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and Belarus’s accusa-
tions of Russia of ‘double standards’, ‘gas war III +’ and Customs Union
disputes, described by some as a ‘dialogue between gangsters’ and a ‘ritual
of mutual insults and jibes’.
13
This new quid pro quo relationship with
‘mother’ Russia, exacerbated by the gas and oil crisis, forced Lukashenko,
for the first time in the 2010 State of the Nation Address, openly to criticize
his traditional ally, upon whose goodwill, it is alleged,
14
his authority and
fortune in the December 2010 presidential election were premised:
TABLE 2
VOLUME INDICES OF GDP (AS PERCENTAGE OF PREVIOUS YEAR)
2001 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
Azerbaijan 109.9 126.4 134.5 125.0 110.8 109.3 105
Armenia 109.6 113.9 113.2 113.7 106.8 85.8 102.6
Belarus 104.7 109.4 110.0 108.6 110.2 100.2 107.6
Georgia 104.8 109.6 109.4 112.3 102.3 92.2
Kazakhstan 113.5 109.7 110.7 108.9 103.3 101.2 107
Kyrgyzstan 105.3 99.8 103.1 108.5 108.4 102.3 98.6
Moldova 106.1 107.5 104.8 103.0 107.8 93.5 106.9
Russia 105.1 106.4 107.7 108.1 105.6 92.1 104
Tajikistan 109.6 106.7 107.0 107.8 107.9 103.4 106.5
Turkmenistan 113.3 111.6 110.5 106.1 109.2
Uzbekistan 104.5 107.0 107.3 109.5 109.0 108.1 108.5
Ukraine 109.2 102.7 107.3 107.9 102.3 84.9 104.2
CIS average 106 107 108 109 106 93 105
Source: ,http://www.cisstat.com/eng/frame_macro.htm.and individual country sites, accessed
11 March 2011.
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This is the last time I openly state that if necessary we will move under-
ground, as 65–70 years ago, but we will survive. We survived then, and
have now survived the financial crisis. And for this I should be grateful
not to our motherland Russia. But instead, to our, in inverted commas,
‘enemies’: the IMF, Europe, and the West. They gave us those billions
to help us survive. THEY supported us. Not Russia.
15
Consequently Belarus, deprived of its conventional revenues from the duty-
free export of Russian oil, and of financial loans suspended by Russia, has
been hit hard, but not directly by the global economic crisis. It has managed
to stay afloat, and is positively assessed by the IMF with regard to its policy
planning. The main consequences of the crisis for Belarus, as this essay con-
tends, go well beyond its economics. They are political in nature, mobilizing
the Belarusian leadership to reconceptualize its geopolitics and leading to the
two critical changes in official discourse:
(i) a new and unabashed search for diversification (successful or not), includ-
ing rapprochement with the European Union (EU) under the Eastern Part-
nership initiative (EaP);
16
and
(ii) an acute and reinvigorated sense of sovereignty ‘we will not kneel
before anyone’
17
with which Belarus now attempts to rebuild itself
domestically and internationally.
In order to comprehend the real nature and consequences of the global crisis for
Belarus, it is necessary to place the country into the context of its geopolitics,
and briefly trace the main stages in its relations with the external environment,
and especially with Russia, its closest international ally. The essay is divided
into three sections. The first follows the critical junctures in Belarusian relations
with Russia to explicate the country’s decision to diversify its resources and pol-
itical choices. The second examines the nature and endurance of the refreshed
‘sovereignty’ discourse and Russia’s place in Belarusian geopolitics. Finally,
the third section analyses public responses to Belarus’s changing foreign
policy priorities, conditioned by the global crisis and a new course for social
austerity announced by Lukashenko with its advent.
18
The Road to Diversification: Signposts of the Internal Political Crisis
The real political crisis as reflected in the slowly changing priorities of Belar-
usian foreign policy was triggered by Russia’s resurgence as a regional power
in the post-Soviet space. Defining its ‘near abroad’ as an area of its strategic
priorities,
19
and luring the neighbours often by the hard means of coercion
to form alternatives to the EU alliances of a military, economic and political
BELARUSIAN FOREIGN POLICY 569
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nature, Russia has been putting enormous pressure on its allies, leaving them
with virtually no opportunity to pursue policies that they themselves might
favour.
20
Belarus, perhaps more than all others, has experienced the advan-
tages and drawbacks of such a close relationship with its great neighbour.
There had been times of good and not-so-good relations with Russia,
varying from the integrationist heyday under the Yeltsin’s presidency
(1994–99) to a ‘cooling-off’ period of cautious optimism under Putin’s lea-
dership (2000–6).
21
There were always brief moments of disagreement and
sporadic ‘returns’ to Europe, which, however, never went beyond the rhetoric
of intent, and were seen as Belarusian attempts to blackmail Russia for specific
concessions.
22
The year 2006 became a watershed in the two countries’ relations. Seeking
to promote its own interests in relations with Russia under the feeble and non-
committal framework of the Union State, Belarus in 2006 was publicly com-
pared by Putin with an incessant fly attracted by a Russian ‘cutlet’, which
would be ‘cheaper’ to subsidize if it were to become part of the Russian
Federation.
23
This, for the first time in the post-Yeltsin history of Belarus
Russia relations, caused Lukashenko to denounce Russia’s comments as dero-
gatory, and propose a new course for the diversification of Belarusian foreign
policy, which was subsequently formalized into Lukashenko’s ‘golden rule’ of
foreign policy:
Belarus’s foreign strategy is based on three fundamental principles: pol-
itical sovereignty, economic openness and equal partnership relations
with other countries. The ‘Golden Rule’ of our foreign policy is
multi-vectoredness and interest in reciprocal contracts ... We are very
interested in co-operating with the West, especially the EU.
24
Was it a genuine commitment on the Belarusian side, given its previous and
continuing rhetoric of oscillation between the East and the West? Subsequent
years, marked by growing tensions between the two countries, seem to indi-
cate a real commitment to the diversification of opportunities. Not only do
they witness increasing co-operation between Belarus and Third World
countries (including Venezuela, China, Iran, and the other states of the CIS,
especially Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Turkmenistan
25
), but more
crucially they involve the inception of a dialogue with the EU, under the
EaP, signed in 2009. Meanwhile, Belarusian Russian relations continue to
suffer more ‘ebbs’ than ‘flows’, commonly known as ‘micro-wars’, which
considerably intensified in recent years, reaching their apogee in the
summer of 2010, and clearly exposing the political nature of the conflict.
The micro-wars may be usefully divided into three categories reflecting the
character and the extent of politicization of the dispute in each given case:
(i) repeated and continuing gas- and oil-related conflicts (2004, 2006 7,
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2010–11); (ii) transactional conflicts (the infamous ‘milk’, ‘sugar’, ‘machin-
ery’ and ‘meat’ wars) occurring throughout 2009 10; and (iii) the 2009– 10
disputes over political issues, exemplified by Belarus’s non-recognition of
the two Georgian breakaway republics, harbouring ousted Kyrgyz President
Bakiev, ignoring CSTO summits, hosting the Georgian president on a national
broadcasting channel in Belarus, and Russian media attacks on Lukashenko. A
brief account of these events is given below, to expose the intensifying nature
of the political conflict in Belarusian –Russian relations and the republic’s
attempt to diversify its path away from Russia, despite being ever more
closely engaged in the Customs Union championed by Russia.
Gas and Oil Conflicts
The first war, 2004.
When negotiations failed to reach a compromise on the price of supplies and
transit tariffs, Gazprom, a gigantic Russian energy company, cut off Belarus’s
gas flow for one day, in winter, for the first time. Lukashenko publicly com-
pared Moscow’s actions to that of the Nazis, but resumed negotiations soon
afterwards. As a result of this dispute, the price of gas was raised from $29
to almost $47 per thousand cubic metres. During the 2004 negotiations,
Russia forced Belarus to agree to sell the shares of its transit company
Beltransgaz and immediately accelerated all pre-sale preparations.
26
The second war, 2006–7.
As a result of the increasing ‘pragmatization’ of Russia’s relations with all
partners, new prices were negotiated for gas supply between Moscow and
Minsk. According to the agreement signed on 31 December 2006, gas
prices for Belarus for 2008 –10 would increase rapidly to reach 90 per cent
of the European price, excluding transportation costs and export duties.
27
Despite the price increase, Belarus continued to negotiate at the highest
levels and wrest significant verbal concessions from the Russian President
Dmitrii Medvedev, while inevitably heading for a new conflict, which unex-
pectedly unravelled between the two partners in June 2010, well before the
expiry of Belarus’s contract with Gazprom.
In addition to gas, Belarus also exports Russian oil. Thanks to the rising oil
prices, Belarus benefited considerably from exporting petroleum products to
the European market at higher prices. In 2007, following the course of prag-
matization, Russia introduced an export duty on oil supplies to Belarus.
Under a new agreement, signed on 13 January 2007, the fee was to be
levied on oil sent for processing and export abroad in the form of petroleum
products, while oil supplies used domestically would be free of duty.
28
The
new agreement dramatically curtailed Belarus’s revenues from oil exports
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to Europe. In an interview with Reuters, President Lukashenko stated that the
amount of losses from Russia’s actions was approximately $5bn.
29
The third war, 2010–11.
In early 2010, as a sign of diversification, Belarus signed a contract with
Venezuela to receive oil via Odesa, and the first shipment (4,000 tonnes)
arrived on 9 May 2010.
30
Belarusian officials plan to increase oil delivery
up to ten million tonnes per year,
31
which is about half of what Belarus cur-
rently buys from Russia for domestic consumption; the country thus intends
to earn about $244 m in revenues from the sale of this oil to the European
markets.
32
Alternative supplies were discussed with other countries, including
Iran, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, with the prospect of receiving an additional
4 m tonnes in 2011 through the Odesa–Brody and Druzhba pipelines.
33
On 16 March 2010 Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister, offered to
abolish duties on Russian oil exported to Belarus from 2012, provided Belarus
signed a special agreement with Russia and Kazakhstan.
34
In response the
country filed a lawsuit with the CIS economic court on 25 March 2010 for
Russia’s alleged violation of the Russia –Belarus Union State’s customs
agreements with Belarus in relation to oil export fees.
35
On 21 June 2010 Russia’s Gazprom unexpectedly announced its intention
to cut up to 85 per cent of gas supplies to Belarus because of unpaid bills to the
tune of $190m. Belarus responded with a statement that Gazprom owed the
country over $220m in unpaid transit fees, and refused to pay. On 22 June
2010 Gazprom reduced its gas supplies to Belarus by 30 per cent, and gradu-
ally increased the cuts, until both parties agreed to pay each other. After five
days of ‘siege’ the crisis was resolved, but Russia suspended any new loans to
its neighbour. The dispute has nevertheless continued, in a tacit form, well into
2011.
36
The above conflicts and the frequency of their occurrence clearly signify a
growing tension between the two countries, and Russia’s readiness to deploy
hard means of ‘gas and oil’ politics to steer its neighbour’s policy choices, and
ensure their compliance with Russian intentions. The context of the third
‘unexpected’ gas war has been particularly telling, exposing an explicitly
political element in the conflict. It may be seen as Russia’s reaction to a
sequence of challenging actions recently undertaken by Lukashenko: in par-
ticular, Belarus’s harbouring of the ousted Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek
Bakiyev whose overthrow was strongly supported by Russia’s political
circles; Lukashenko’s open criticism of the CSTO, chaired by Russia, for its
inaction regarding the situation in Kyrgyzstan;
37
his successful oil co-
operation with Venezuela (and other countries), as an alternative to Russia;
and his resistance to signing the customs union without securing tangible
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concessions on oil export duties for the country, negotiation on which was still
continuing in 2011.
38
Transactional Conflicts (2009 –10)
The transactional conflicts between Belarus and Russia have also intensified
since 2009. Four ‘micro-wars’ are particularly noteworthy for their unpredict-
able occurrence, and their ambivalent character.
Sugar war (June 2009).
This dispute emerged in response to a sudden Russian initiative by the minis-
try of agriculture to impose tariff quotas to regulate deliveries of raw sugar
from Belarus and Kazakhstan, which resulted in 100 tonnes of sugar a
major export item for Belarus rotting in carriages on the border while await-
ing resolution of the dispute. Lukashenko’s criticism of the conflict was
blatant: ‘Prices on sugar have grown by 40 per cent in Russia recently. I
was shocked to learn about it. This is a crime against people. Why did
Russia close its market to Belarusian sugar? If they had enough sugar on
the market, there would be no such price’.
39
Milk and meat war (July 2009; 2010).
Russia’s food safety watchdog, Rosselkhoznadzor, unexpectedly decided to
tighten control over the import of products from 40 Belarusian dairy and
meat-packing plants. They allegedly fell short of Russia’s food quality
requirements, and Belarus was accused of being ‘not interested in civilized
access to the Russian market’.
40
The dispute was resolved within a few
days but required the presidents to negotiate personally to facilitate a
compromise.
A new ‘meat’ conflict was emerging on the eve of signing the Customs
Union agreement that Belarus was energetically resisting until July 2010. It
concerned new technical regulations that Russia was planning to impose on
all imported meat products, and Belarus would have been affected directly
if it had not signed the agreement.
41
A new ‘milk’ route may be on its way,
too, as Russia increasingly finds Belarusian dry dairy products far more
expensive than, surprisingly, imports from elsewhere in Europe and New
Zealand.
42
Agricultural machinery war (2009).
This conflict concerns the export of Belarusian tractors and cars, whereby
Russia decided yet again unilaterally to introduce new quotas for these
imports.
43
Lukashenko heatedly commented in his ‘State of the Nation’
address: ‘We always have to negotiate with Russia. If it is not a direct
customs ban, then through credit refusal (they stopped giving loans for
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Belarusian goods, tractors, cars, etc.), and in actual fact they almost squeezed
us out of the Russian market’.
44
Nuclear plant project.
In an attempt to diversify its energy sources, Belarus has committed itself to
building a nuclear plant on its Western border, and in May 2009 asked
Russia for a $9bn loan and a know-how package. Soon afterwards China
emerged as another interested investor in the Belarusian nuclear energy
project, which caused frictions with Russia who was insisting that ‘if the
Chinese investors get in, we will pull out’.
45
The deal was finally concluded
in March 2011, during Putin’s visit to Minsk, with a $9.4bn commitment
from Russia that the nuclear plant should be completed by 2018.
46
In summary, the above transactional conflicts, which considerably intensi-
fied during 2009 11, and their unpredictable and often petty character,
suggest growing disagreements of a political nature between the two partners.
They also reveal a proactive role on Russia’s part in these conflicts, which it
seems to initiate each time it requires Belarus to act on specific issues. The
year 2009 was eventful for Belarus, especially in terms committing itself to
participation in the Eastern Partnership, launched by the EU to intensify
relations with its neighbours to the East. After signing a Joint Declaration
with the EU in May 2009, Belarus unexpectedly encountered a whole series
of transactional and other disputes with Russia. The coincidence of Russian
sanctions with Belarus’s (even temporary) rapprochement with the West
could only suggest a kind of a ‘tug-of-war’ between the greater neighbours.
Conflicts over Political Issues (2009 11)
Conflicts of an openly political nature are no longer new in Belarus Russian
relations, and have increased considerably since 2010. They were directly pre-
cipitated by the Russia Georgia war, and Russia’s pressure on its neighbours
(and Belarus especially) to recognize the two breakaway republics of
Abkhazia and South Osetia. However, the EU’s conditionality for Belarus’s
participation in the EaP demanding its non-recognition of the same states
left Belarus in a rather precarious situation. The issue of approval was
passed to the House of Representatives, which subsequently sent a delegation
to the breakaway republics. However, the decision-making process came to a
standstill and was still unresolved in 2011, thus frustrating Russia even further
by another act of non-compliance on the part of its difficult neighbour.
47
During 2009 10 Belarus seems to have clearly acquired a voice of its own
in its relations with Russia. It dared to ignore the CSTO summit in the summer
of 2009, where it was supposed to take over the chair of the Russian-led initiat-
ive. It also offered refuge to the beleaguered president Bakiyev, openly oppos-
ing Russia and criticizing the CSTO, currently presided over by Russia, for
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inaction. For a moment, Belarus even seemed to have warmed up to the pro-
spect of the EU’s Eastern partnership, having hosted a number of high-ranking
EU officials in the second half of 2010, and begun negotiations on an interim
contractual agreement with the EU. As Deputy Prime Minister Andrei
Kobyakov commented, the EaP had an enormous interest and potential for
Belarus, which had not yet been realized, and in his view the EaP should
help ‘build a prosperous and secure Europe without dividing lines and
spheres of influence’, where Belarus could provide a ‘bridge linking the
Customs Union of Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan and the EU as the two
largest integrated entities in Europe’.
48
In the course of 2010 Russia responded by unleashing the power of its
media to punish Lukashenko for his political disloyalty. A full range of
media tools was deployed, the most effective being the release of a film
called ‘The Godfather’ (Krestnyi Bat’ska) that spilt political dirt on the
Belarusian president.
49
In response, the Belarusian president himself, for the
first time, publicly labelled Russia’s strategy as ‘imperialist’, and commented
further:
They don’t like Lukashenko, because he is too defensive of his
independence. There are also a number of other reasons: they don’t
like our politics ... From their imperialist perspective, they want to
have us in their sphere of influence ... Their imperialist thinking pre-
cisely means to take, to bend, to squeeze and to strangle ... They do
not know any other way.
50
Nevertheless, Russia masterfully succeeded in bringing Belarus back under its
control by entangling her in the Customs Union and a number of military and
economic agreements. The two sides even managed to reach a public reconci-
liation on the eve of Belarus’s presidential election in December 2010, the
result of which was not at all surprising giving Lukashenko 79.7 per cent
of the popular vote and his fourth term in office.
51
Yet the tensions remained,
exposing the very political nature of this unsatisfactory ‘partnership’. The
efforts of the Belarusian leadership to diversify away from Russia quietly con-
tinued. However, whether Belarus is able to pursue its position with a similar
momentum, now being so asymmetrically reliant on Russia and falling out
once again with the EU, is an open question, the answer to which is also
conditioned by the external actions of Belarus’s greater neighbours.
Sovereignty as a New Political Discourse
The other change that has become evident in official discourse since 2006 is
the acute sense of sovereignty, to such an extent that the president, who
until recently was strongly advocating reunification with Russia, has now
BELARUSIAN FOREIGN POLICY 575
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become the most vociferous defender of Belarusian sovereignty and a living
symbol of national independence. It would be useful to trace how the Belar-
usian president himself views Russia’s role in making Belarus a stronger
and freer nation, and how he has furnished his rhetoric in his annual national
addresses in the past few years, particularly since the time of the economic
crisis.
In his 2006 State of the Nation address,
52
which he prefaced with a state-
ment that ‘The state is for the people; and everyone is for the betterment of
their Motherland’, the president highlighted what were, in his opinion, the
two most critical issues for the future development of Belarus. The first
related to ‘the unprecedented pressure of the West on the country’, and the
second the ‘rising prices of energy sources’, for which the country needed
to prepare and seek diversification. Unusually, compared with his previous
speeches, only towards the end of his address did he underscore the impor-
tance of Russia as a historically predetermined choice for Belarus, along
with the CIS, in furthering Belarus’s domestic and international standing.
He also insisted that a fair balance of global power could only be achieved
in a multi-polar world, in which small countries such as Belarus should be
given the opportunity to pursue a multi-vector policy.
His 2007 address was markedly more dramatic. Reflecting on the 2006 gas
and oil conflict, the president, right from the start, brought forward the
importance of pursuing a ‘symmetrical’ foreign policy, insisting on its
multi-vectored nature and the urgency of maintaining balanced relations
with the outside world:
There can be no other way we are an open country in the centre of
Europe. We cannot and must not, by force of our geographical and his-
torical location, prioritize one and be closed to the other. However, this
does not mean that we are changing our strategic priorities. The basic
one among them, as before, is preservation of the Russian direction,
which is of principal importance for us.
53
Indirectly, he heatedly criticized the Russian government for instigating the
crisis, which had cost Belarus dearly in resources and public well-being. He
asserted, however, that the development of the Union State should remain pri-
ority number one, as this would benefit both nations. As a new direction, the
president separately mentioned the importance of building relations with the
EU and United States afresh to improve the country’s standing.
In his 2008 address the president placed an enormous emphasis on sover-
eignty: ‘We have now become fully sovereign ... The world should know that
Belarus does not trade its sovereignty!’; and he passionately advocated the
pursuit of a multi-vectored and impartial foreign policy: ‘I wish to make it
clear that I am not flirting either with the West (and the US) or with the
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East. We are a proud and independent nation. We have an amazing intellectual
level, and want to live on our own land, and build our own life. We are inde-
pendent as a nation, both politically and economically’.
54
Throughout his
whole speech Russia was mentioned only in passing, to explicate Belarus’s
historically determined choice due its location.
The emphasis on sovereignty, survival and ideology became still more
pronounced in his 2009 address. He repeatedly drew on such key words as
‘discipline and order in work’ as the foundations for national survival of the
consequences of the global economic crisis. The president continued empha-
sizing the importance of balanced foreign relations for Belarus, describing the
country as ‘a link (a bridge) between the West and the East’.
55
He thoroughly
discussed the development of efforts in the European direction, which he
began to view as a long-term priority for Belarus; before turning then to
Russia, to deliberate on strategic priorities in the East.
Finally, the 2010 address was qualitatively different, more optimistic and
simultaneously more critical. He asserted that beyond anything, task number
one for Belarus was to ‘remain sovereign and independent, effectively promot-
ing our national interests on the international stage’.
56
He openly criticized
Russia’s policy of ‘pragmatization’, whereby, in his opinion, Belarus was
being unfairly squeezed out of Russian markets despite mutual customs agree-
ments, and discriminated against within the Union State. He contended that
Belarus should now learn to respond pragmatically to the changing realities
of its external environment:
Russia will remain our main political and economic partner. ...But only
on the basis of equal partnership and respect of the Union’s laws. It
seems the Russian government uses the principle that Belarus ‘has
nowhere to go’ [nikuda ne denetsya]. I will not bow to anyone,
because it is the people who would be bowing. They will not! It is criti-
cal today: we will remain sovereign and independent with our proud
Belarusian people, who have earned this right to be independent! We
will pursue the policy of economic interests in our relations with the
rest of the world. We will pursue it as an equal partnership.
57
In general, it becomes clear to what extent the official discourse of the Belar-
usian leadership has moved in the direction of sovereignty and independence,
multiple vectors and national interests in its statement of foreign policy objec-
tives. The leadership has become more vociferous, openly critical and more
pragmatic. Russia, in the president’s latest speeches, was mentioned only in
passing and often disapprovingly as a historical ally and an inevitable strategic
choice, but no longer a priority. It seems that the move towards diversification
and defensive sovereignty has endured in the official rhetoric and in the
actions of the Belarusian authorities. The next section extends this analysis
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by considering public opinion and assessments of Belarusian foreign policy
priorities as determined by its geographical position in the ‘heart of Europe’.
What Do the People Think?
Empirical research conducted in Belarus during 2008 9
58
allows us to
examine the views of these matters across different strata of the population
ranging from ‘experts’, targeting those with a specialist knowledge of Belar-
usian foreign policy, to the population at large and young people Belarus’s
next generation of voters. We will focus particularly on (i) the differences
across these three broad clusters of the public, and (ii) the extent of their align-
ment with the president’s rhetoric that has most recently focused on the diver-
sification and enhancement of sovereignty, even at the expense of union-
building with Russia.
Experts’ Opinion
The experts generally believe that Belarus is correct to pursue a multi-vector
foreign policy directed at the development of economic and national security
relations with neighbours and with states of the Non-Aligned Movement.
Co-operation with Russia was considered by experts in the early 2009 to be
historically preconditioned and to remain a foreign policy priority.
However, opinions regarding the need to uphold the Union State were more
divided, describing it as an amorphous structure of expired opportunities.
Relations with the EU were unanimously considered to be a new direction
in foreign policy, beneficial primarily for the national economy of Belarus.
But the experts were somewhat critical about neglected relations with the
member countries of the CIS, where they wanted to see more government
efforts.
The EU’s policy towards Belarus was described as changeable but gradu-
ally becoming more stable, pragmatic and open. The experts were unanimous
in the opinion that Belarus has great importance for the EU in a geopolitical
sense as a transit state, and also as a guardian of the EU’s external borders. For
its part, Belarus, they believed, was always open to dialogue and co-operation,
but on equal terms in mutually advantageous spheres such as energy, trans-
port, the environment, migration and security. On the whole, however, the
effectiveness of the Western direction of Belarus’s foreign policy was seen
as low. It had not yet justified its expectations and more understanding of
each other’s needs was needed to launch a more constructive dialogue. In par-
ticular, to co-operate successfully the EU needed to recognize Belarus as an
equal partner that, as a less economically developed country, needed time to
adjust to European standards and to become competitive enough not to
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default. But the EU also needed to be more sensitive to Belarus’s geopolitical
situation, without pressing it to make a choice between Russia and the West.
Interviews conducted with government senior officials and parliamentar-
ians in September 2009 were more nuanced as regards the sensitivity of Belar-
us’s position between the West and the East. Opinions were sharply divided
about the role of Russia in Belarus’s relations with the EU. Some interviewees
suggested that Belarus should be treated independently and not as a bridge or a
window between the two civilizations. Others insisted that Belarus should
‘come to Europe’ with Russia: ‘we are too interdependent to be apart’.
59
In
either case, the sensitivity of being part of the ‘contested neighbourhood’
was high, and potentially very divisive. The disputes of the summer of 2010
are likely to sway experts’ opinion away from Russia, but not necessarily in
the EU’s direction.
In summary, the experts seem to concur with the president’s rhetoric
driving the country towards diversification and enhanced independence.
They were more divided as to whether a multi-directional foreign policy
could be possible and effective in practice. Being too dependent on the
East, and now even becoming part of a multi-million economic
market along with Russia and Kazakhstan, stifles their vision and the choice
of direction. Their preferences became further confused by the oscillating
rhetoric of the president, who one day calls Russia an ‘imperialist’ and the
next gives in to Russia’s pressure to become part of the Customs Union that
offers no prospect of immediate benefit.
The Population at Large
According to public opinion surveys, Belarus’s foreign policy continues to be
chiefly oriented towards Russia. Two-thirds of respondents generally approve
the government’s course of action, but would prefer to see parity in Belarusian
relations with Russia and the EU, or a more evenly balanced policy in the
direction of both larger neighbours. They also contend that Belarusian
foreign policy should be multi-directional, and a better rapport should be
developed with all the country’s neighbours, especially the other CIS
countries, which (in common with the experts) they thought had been neg-
lected by the authorities. Furthermore, one in ten supported Belarus’s
co-operation with Non-Aligned countries, especially Venezuela and Cuba;
they also regarded China as an important partner for the country’s
development.
Respondents generally saw Russia, and also China, Ukraine and Vene-
zuela, as particularly friendly towards Belarus, although, curiously, Russia
was scored as ‘friendly’ by less than half of the respondents, which is con-
siderably less than in previous years. Their assessment of Russian amiability
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is likely to fall even further, in the light of recent frictions between the two
countries.
Nevertheless, three times as many continue to prioritize a union with
Russia over the choice of the EU. The model of development of the union
with Russia that is preferred by the majority (70 per cent) is that of the EU;
a tenth however favoured reuniting within the federal framework of the
USSR, and the same number rejected any form of integration with the
larger neighbour.
The survey also showed that the population was largely uninterested in and
uninformed about the EU: every fifth respondent had difficulty in naming EU
member states, and half failed to locate the EU headquarters. Living in a
country that is on the fault line between Eastern and Western civilizations,
survey respondents were generally of the view that Belarus should retain its
neutrality and pursue a balanced foreign policy.
In general, the survey participants seem to be in congruence with (if not
slightly behind) the president’s changing rhetoric in regard to Belarusian
Russian relations. They highlight the importance of parity in Belarusian
foreign policy, which in practice continues to lean heavily towards Russia.
Curiously, they also display a limited range of responses in relation to the
EU, in spite of the awareness campaign that has been initiated by the govern-
ment. It is evident that in order to bring public opinion more closely into line
with official rhetoric, more time is needed as well as a clearer sense of direc-
tion from the leadership.
Belarusian Youth
In absolute contrast, Belarusian school leavers appear to be the most knowl-
edgeable about the EU in comparison with the above-mentioned groups of
experts and the general population, and also with their counterparts in
Moldova and Ukraine. They were able to enumerate numerous facts and
dates on the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community, the Euro-
pean Economic Community and the EU. They even mentioned the EaP,
unlike their Moldovan and Ukrainian counterparts. They were well aware of
the Schengen zone and higher visa costs, although they had not travelled to
the EU before. And for whatever reason, they saw the EU as an important
player in world politics.
When asked to assess Belarus’s position in relation to its larger neigh-
bours, the EU and Russia, opinions, yet again, were sharply divided. Three
points of view may be discerned. According to the first and considerably
more widespread opinion, Belarus should aim at a rapprochement with the
EU. Belarus is important to the EU because of its geographic location; and
the pupils express hope that Belarus and the EU will find mutually beneficial
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forms of co-operation. According to the second point of view, Belarus should
revive the union with Russia instead of pursuing a closer relationship with the
EU, because Russia is an important economic and political ally. The third
group of pupils believe that Belarus should adhere to the principle of neutrality
on the example of Switzerland. Instead of a union with either Russia or the EU,
Belarus should develop economic and trade relations with these two and other
polities.
In summary, the Belarusian youth seem more knowledgeable than their
counterparts in neighbouring countries, as well as the general population.
This could be explained perhaps by their wider use of electronic media
resources, and their aptitude for new media technologies in general. Neverthe-
less, like their government, young people appear to be divided and ambivalent
regarding their preferred sense of direction, and expressed no particular priori-
ties in relation to the wider world.
Conclusions: Towards a New Course?
Belarus remains indeed one of Europe’s mysteries. Despite the odds and its
largely unreformed economy, Belarus seems to have coped with the global
economic crisis better than some Western countries, let alone its Eastern
counterparts. Belarus is forecast by the IMF to continue its development as
a stable and relatively debt-free economy, if it adheres to the measures
agreed by both sides. What is remarkable is that Belarus has survived the econ-
omic crisis almost in isolation, with minimal external aid, weathering it well
with public opinion even after undertaking substantial cuts in social welfare
programmes.
There is no doubt that Belarus has been hit hard: its GDP growth rate fell
by 10 per cent in 2009 compared with the previous year. However, this con-
traction was due less to the aftermath of the global crisis and rather more to the
increasing ‘pragmatization’ of its relations with Russia. The end of the decade
saw a full-scale campaign of political harassment unleashed by Russia on its
incompliant and disloyal ally, who dared to hold on to its own opinion on a
number of issues that were vital for Russia and in respect of which they
were urgently in need of external public legitimacy.
Belarus certainly seems to have changed. It has become more vociferous,
more daring and more defensive of its national interests. Two particular
changes in its foreign policy have been noted recently: an enthusiasm for
diversification and a reinvigorated discourse of sovereignty. The slogan ‘We
are the Belarusians!’ is now commonplace, and Lukashenko, counter-intui-
tively, has come to be identified as the guardian of Belarus’s independence,
almost turning his policy, at least in rhetoric, by 180 degrees to pay
tribute at last to Belarusian history, identity and resilience.
60
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In other words, it is not so much the economic consequences of the global
crisis that Belarus seems to have suffered. It is far deeper than that: the coun-
try’s political future, shaped by its geopolitics and increasing external pressure
from both sides the EU and Russia seems to have steered its discourse and
action.
Despite political harassment and oppression from the Belarusian auth-
orities, the general population remains optimistic. According to recent
opinion polls,
61
the president continues to enjoy public support. His legitimacy
remains staggeringly enduring, and indeed matches Commissioner S
ˇtefan
Fu
¨le’s depiction of the nation as ‘Europe’s great mystery’:
62
a society knowl-
edgeable about Lukashenko’s misgivings but nevertheless knowingly suppor-
tive of their president. If one were to summarize his current public standing
and his possible electoral future, it would be best expressed as follows:
The chief brand of our country in international relations is Aleksandr
Grigor’evich Lukashenko. He is an international celebrity. Our neigh-
bours may not yet know us for our goods and services, but they defi-
nitely know us for our love for potato and our president. His name is
known worldwide (I have experienced it myself).
63
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
I wish to record my gratitude to the ESRC under grant RES-061-25-0001 for the financial support
of this project, and to thank Giles Polglase and the journal editors for their helpful comments on an
earlier version of the essay.
NOTES
1. A quotation from a speech by S
ˇtefan Fu
¨le, EU Commissioner for Enlargement and Neigh-
bourhood Policy, during his visit to Belarus on 9 July 2010; Marina Rakhley, ‘Yevrokomissar
Shtefan Fyule: Belarus samaya bol’shaya taina Evropy’ [Eurocommissioner S
ˇtefan Fu
¨le:
Belarus is Europe’s biggest mystery], available at ,http://news.tut.by/politics/176210.
html., accessed 9 July 2010; author’s translation.
2. Anatoly Rubinov, member of the Belarusian Academy of Sciences, and a leading national
ideologist; quotation from his article ‘Nel’zya zabyvat’, chto zavtra nachinaetsya segodnya’
[We must not forget that tomorrow begins today], 6 July 2010, available at ,www.sb.by/post/
102286., accessed 22 July 2010.
3. Leonid Zlotnikov, ‘The Belarusian Economic Miracle Illusions and Reality’, in Sabine
Fischer (ed.), Back From the Cold? The EU and Belarus in 2009, Chaillot Paper No.119
(Nov. 2009) (Paris: European Union Institute for Security Studies), pp.65 79.
4. For a comparative overview of Belarus’s economic indicators see Irina Yeremeyeva, ‘The
Impact of the Global Financial Crisis on Belarusian Economy’, Electronic Publications of
the Pan-European Institute, No.23 (2009), Pan-European Institute, Turku School of Econ-
omics, available at ,http://www.tse.fi/FI/yksikot/erillislaitokset/pei/Documents/Julkaisut/
yeremeyeva_economic_crisis_belarusian_economy_2309%20web.pdf., accessed 22 July
2010.
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5. Colin Hay, ‘Political Analysis in an Age of Acknowledged Interdependence: Is there a Future
for Disciplinarity?’, paper presented at the International Politics Seminar, Aberystwyth
University, 3 June 2010.
6. The extent of the crisis and its consequences depend on the degree of integration into the
global economy, structural characteristics and policy responses of individual countries.
Belarus appears to be more insulated than others, but also structurally better protected
more than others. For further discussion see Yeremeyeva, ‘The Impact of Global Crisis’.
7. Andrey Serada, ‘IMF Approves Final Stand-by Loan Tranche for Belarus’, 27 March 2010,
available at ,http://naviny.by/rubrics/english/2010/03/27/ic_articles_259_167232., accessed
22 July 2010.
8. For more discussion of Ukraine’s situation see Vlad Mikhnenko and Adam Swain, ‘Ukraine’s
Diverging Space-Economy: The Orange Revolution, Post-Soviet Development Models and
Regional Trajectories’, European Urban and Regional Studies, Vol.17, No.2 (2010),
pp.141– 65.
9. As follows from Table 1, the IMF initially predicted Belarus’s GDP to experience a first time
ever ‘negative’ growth ( –0.3 per cent) in 2009. Stringently following a new policy of austerity
Belarus, however, managed to reverse the trend, and instead produced +0.2 percent positive
growth by the first quarter 2010 (see Table 2).
10. As estimated by Standard and Poor’s Economic Analysts, available at ,http://www.
standardandpoors.com/ratings/articles/en/us/?assetID=1245185058824., accessed 22 July
2010, and The Economist, available at ,www.economist.com/indicators., accessed 22
July 2010.
11. Margarita Balmaceda, ‘At a Crossroads: The Belarusian Russian Energy-political Model in
Crisis’, in Fischer (ed.), Back from the Cold, pp.7993 (p.80).
12. For more information see Elena Korosteleva, ‘The Limits of EU Governance: Belarus’
Response to the European Neighbourhood Policy’, Contemporary Politics, Vol.15, No.2
(2009), pp.229– 45.
13. David Marples, ‘Tensions Mounting Between Belarus and Mother Russia’, 15 July 2010,
available at ,www.edmontonjournal.com/news/Tensions+mounting+between+Belarus+
Mother+Russia/3280311/story.html., accessed 22 July 2010.
14. See in particular Leonid Zaika’s comments concerning the plan for ousting Lukashenko from
power in the case of Russia’s withdrawing its support: Brian Whitmore, ‘Has Moscow Had
Enough of Belarus’ Lukashenka?’, RL/RFE (19 July 2010), available at ,http://www.rferl.
org/content/has_Moscow_Had_Enough_of_Belaruss_Lukashenka/2104099.html., accessed
22 July 2010.
15. Alexander Lukashenko, State of the Nation Address, 21 April 2010, available at ,www.
president.gov.by/press86246., accessed 22 July 2010; emphasis in original.
16. The European direction has been considerably hindered by the violent aftermath of the
December 2010 presidential election, in consequence of which the EU renewed political sanc-
tions against Belarus, and, at the time of writing, was reassessing the policy of engagement
with the country. For more information see Fu
¨le’s speech on Eastern Partnership and
Belarus, 3 March 2011, Bratislava, Global Security Forum, SPEECH/11/148.
17. A quotation from Lukashenko’s speech, in Dmitriy Kopal’, ‘Lukashenko dlya Kremlya
uzhe chuzhoi’ [Lukashenko for the Kremlin is already a stranger], 17 July 2010, available
at ,naviny.by/rubrics/politic/2010/07/17/ic_articles_112_169065., accessed 22 July 2010.
18. Alexander Lukashenko, State of the Nation Address, 22 April 2007, available at ,http://
www.president.gov.by/press49984.html#doc., accessed 22 July 2010.
19. ‘Foreign Policy Concept of the Russian Federation’, 12 July 2008, available at ,http://
archive.kremlin.ru/eng/text/docs/2008/07/204750.shtml., accessed 24 July 2010.
20. Nicu Popescu and Andrew Wilson, ‘The Limits of Enlargement-lite: European and the
Russian Power in the Troubled Neighbourhood’, policy report (June 2009), European
Council on Foreign Relations, available at ,http://ecfr.3cdn.net/befa70d12114c3c2b0_
hrm6bv2ek.pdf., accessed 12 Nov. 2009; Sergiu Secrieru, ‘Russian Foreign Policy in
Times of Crisis: Greater Compliance or Resilient Self-Confidence?’, policy brief, CEPS,
192/30 (June 2009); Dmitry Trenin, ‘Russia’s Spheres of Interests, Not Influence’,
Washington Quarterly, Oct. 2009, pp.3– 22.
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21. For more details see Korosteleva, ‘The Limits of the EU Governance’.
22. Denis Melyantsou and Vital Silitski, ‘In the Shadow of Kremlin Stars: Belarus –EU Relations
Lack Substance’, working paper, Minsk, Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies, 2008,
available at ,http://www.belinstitute.eu/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=
151%3Anone&catid=3%3Aeu&Itemid=28&lang=en., accessed 22 July 2010.
23. ‘Vse melko drozhali’ [All shivered superficially], Belorusskii Rynok, 2007, No.3 (738)
(229 Jan).
24. Lukashenko’s speech delivered at a meeting with Belarusian students, 12 Feb. 2008, presiden-
tial office press release No.49929, available at ,http://www.president.gov.by/press49929.
print.html., accessed 22 July 2010.
25. For more information see MFA’s report ‘Belarus and the CIS countries’, available at ,http://
www.mfa.gov.by/en/courtiers/cis., accessed 5 May 2011.
26. ‘Who and How Won Russia Belarus Hydrocarbon Wars’, 26 Jan. 2010, Khartya 97,
available at ,http://charter97.org/en/news/2010/1/26/25743/., accessed 22 July 2010.
27. Ibid.
28. Ibid.
29. Lukashenko’s interview to Reuters, 7 Feb. 2007, available at ,http://www.president.gov.by/
press49990.html#doc., accessed 16 March 2011.
30. Maryna Nosova, ‘Pyatyi Tanker s Venesuel’skoi neft’yu poide
¨t po novomy marshrutu’ [The
fifth tanker of Venezuela’s oil will take a new itinerary], available at ,http://news.tut.by/
economiocs/176455.html., accessed 22 July 2010.
31. Ibid.
32. A quote from the interview with the first deputy prime minister, Vladimir Semashko, ‘Vene-
suel’skaya neft: kal’kulyator dlya pervoi postavki’ [Venezuelan oil: a calculator for the first
delivery], 28 April 2010, available at ,http://news.tut.by/economics/168469.html.,
accessed 22 July 2010.
33. The contract was concluded on 29 January 2011, with 81,000 tonnes of Azerbaijan oil
delivered for Belarus at the Ukrainian port Yuzhnyi. For more information, see ,http://
telegraf.by/2011/01/azerbaijan-oil-for-belarus-delivered-in-ukraine.html., accessed 11
March 2011.
34. Yuras Karmanau, ‘Putin Offers Belarus Zero Oil Import Duties’, 16 March 2010, available at
,http://www.boston.com/news/world/europe/articles/2010/03/16/putin_offers_belarus_zero_
oil_import_duties/., accessed 22 July 2010.
35. ‘Belarus Disputes the CIS Court’s Refusal to Ban Oil Duties Levying’, 29 June 2010,
available at ,http://telegraf.by/2010/06/belarus_disputes_the_cis_courts_refusal_to_ban_
oil_duties_levying., accessed 22 June 2010.
36. Oil duties were finally abolished from 1 January 2011 between Belarus and Russia, as part of
the Customs Union agreement; however, the price of oil delivery was still subject to fierce
negotiation. In 25 January 2011 both sides seemed to have agreed to commit themselves to
‘mutually advantageous prices’, which nevertheless saw few concessions by Russia to
Belarus. For more information see ,http://telegraf.by/2011/01/oil-contract-with-russia-
advantageous-for-belarus-belneftekhim.html., accessed 11 March 2011. See also Andrei
Kozhemyakin, ‘Rossiiskaya neft’ po-prezhnemu ne postupaet v Belarus’ [Russian oil, as
before, is not entering Belarus], 24 Jan. 2011, available at ,http://news.tut.by/economics/
212610.html., accessed 11 March 2011.
37. Darya Sologub, ‘Welcome to Belarus, Kurmanbek!’, 21 April 2010, available at ,http://rt.
com/Politics/2010-04-21/baliyev-belarus-asylym.html., accessed 22 July 2010.
38. Interview with Lukashenko, by Tatyana Polezhai and Vladimir Vasil’kov, ‘Lukashenko o
Tamozhennom soyuze, vyborakh, Gruzii i zarplatakh’ [Lukashenko on the Customs Union,
elections, Georgia and salaries], 16 July 2010, available at ,http://news.tut.by/politics/
177040.html., accessed 22 July 2010.
39. ‘Russia’s Alliance with Belarus May Lead to War’, Pravda, 7 June 2009, available at ,http://
english.pravda.ru/world/ussr/07-06-2009/107731-russia_belarus-0., accessed 22 June 2010.
40. For more information see ,http://naviny.by/rubrics/english/2009/07/20/ic_news_259_
314793., accessed 22 July 2010.
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41. Andrei Kozhemyakhin, ‘Myasnoi konflikt dlya Belarusi nokdaun, dlya Rossii – ukus
komara’ [A meat conflict for Belarus is a knockdown, but for Russia a mosquito bite], 3
July 2010, available at ,http://news.tut.by/economics/175592.html., accessed 23 July
2010.
42. Andrei Kazhamyakin and Andrei Danilenko, ‘Russia Said to Have Started Substituting
Imports from Europe for Belarusian Dry Milk’, 23 July 2010, available at ,http://naviny.
by/rubrics/english/2010/07/23/ic_articles_259_169409/., accessed 23 July 2010.
43. For more information see ,http://blogs.euobserver.com/rakhlei/tag/belarus-russia-union/.,
accessed 23 July 2010.
44. President Lukashenko’s State of the Nation Address, 21 April 2010, available at ,http://
www.president.gov.by/press86246.html., accessed 22 July 2010.
45. David Marples, ‘Belarus: Open for Business?’, Eurasia Daily Monitor, Vol.7, No.77 (21 April
2010), available at ,http://www.jamestown.org/programs/edm/single/?tx_ttnews%5Btt_
news%5D=36292&cHash=51e477a3b8., accessed 23 July 2010.
46. Yuras Karmanau, ‘Russia and Belarus Sign $9 billion Nuclear Plant Deal’, Associated Press,
15 March 2011, available at ,http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/
D9LVUFBO0.htm., accessed 16 March 2011.
47. There are few signs of resolving the issue in 2011, despite some indications of rapprochement
between Russia and Belarus and the renewed EU sanctions towards Belarus after the 2010
presidential election. For more information, see David Marples, ‘Russia Increases Pressure
on Lukashenko’, Jamestown Foundation, 25 Oct. 2010, available at ,http://
democraticbelarus.eu/node/10152., accessed 16 March 2011.
48. ‘Belarus Says It Wants Closer Ties With the EU’, 9 July 2010, available at ,http://www.
interfax.com/newsinf.asp?id=176561., accessed 23 July 2010.
49. ‘Kremlin’s Plan of Taming Lukashenka Goes Ahead’, 17 July 2010, available at ,http://
belarusdigest.com/2010/07/17/kremlins-plan-of-taming-lukashenka-goes-ahead., accessed
23 July 2010.
50. Kastus’ Lashkevich, ‘Natsyyanal’naya rytoryka prezidenta: pavarot na 180 gradusau?’ [The
national rhetoric of the President: a 180-degree U-turn?], 22 July 2010, available at
,http://news.tut.by/politics/177624.html., accessed 23 July 2010.
51. For more information see ,http://www.rec.gov.by/pdf/prb2010/sved21.pdf., accessed 11
March 2011.
52. President Lukashenko’s State of the Nation Address, 23 May 2006, available at ,http://www.
president.gov.by/press29486., accessed 23 July 2010.
53. President Lukashenko’s State of the Nation Address, 24 April 2007, available at ,http://
www.president.gov.by/press49984.html#doc., accessed 22 July 2010.
54. President Lukashenko’s State of the Nation Address, 25 April 2008, available at ,http://
www.president.gov.by/press57289.html#doc., accessed 22 July 2010.
55. President Lukashenko’s State of the Nation Address, 23 April 2009, available at ,http://
www.president.gov.by/press70397.html., accessed 22 July 2010.
56. Alexander Lukashenko, State of the Nation Address, 21 April 2010, available at ,http://
www.president.gov.by/press10256.html., accessed 11 May 2011.
57. Ibid, pp.30– 1.
58. Nationwide survey, focus-groups, interviews and a study of school essays were conducted in
Belarus during 2008– 9, as part of the wider ESRC-sponsored project ‘Europeanising or
Securitising the Outsiders: Assessing the EU’s Partnership-Building Approach with Eastern
Europe’ (RES-061-25-0001), under the author’s leadership. For more information, see the
project’s website, available at ,http://www.aber.ac.uk/interpol/en/research/EKPproject/
index.htm..
(i) A nationwide survey was conducted in October 2008; sampling was multi-staged, strati-
fied, and random. The sample was representative of the population aged 18+(urban and
rural) by nationality, sex, region, age and education. The interview lasted on average 40–
50 minutes using local languages for interlocution. The sample representation error was
no more than +3%. The survey included 10% random quality control on completion.
BELARUSIAN FOREIGN POLICY 585
Downloaded by [Aberystwyth University], [Ms Elena Korosteleva] at 04:52 15 September 2011
1,000 respondents were polled in Belarus. The questionnaire included three thematic
blocks addressing (i) foreign policy priorities (EU vis-a
`-vis Russia); (ii) relations with
EU (knowledge, perceptions, type of relations); and (iii) the ENP/EaP’s effectiveness
(knowledge, perceptions, problems and future).
(ii) 25 interviews with experts were conducted in January and September 2009. They com-
prised members of parliament, officials of ministry of foreign affairs (MFA), civil ser-
vants, mass media and think-tank representatives, businessmen and members of the
opposition. Interviews were semi-structured, in-depth, audio-recorded when permitted,
anonymized when requested, and lasted on average 4050 minutes. Interviews were
conducted in Belarusian or Russian. The questionnaire largely mirrored the three
thematic blocks of the survey.
(iii) A study of school essays was undertaken in March 2009. The sampling involved four ran-
domly selected secondary schools in Minsk and Mozyr (with 50 essays selected in total),
in which school-leavers were requested, without prior warning, to write an essay of a
maximum of two pages on pre-set questions. The survey lasted on average 30– 45
minutes. Essays were anonymized and computerized. The essays addressed the follow-
ing three themes: (i) knowledge and perceptions of the EU; (ii) similarities with and
differences from the EU; and (iii) future relations with the EU.
(iv) Finally, six focus-groups were conducted in Minsk, Gomel and Grodno in May 2009, and
on average comprised eight participants who were sampled using a snowballing method
and a screening questionnaire. Individual groups included (i) students; (ii) females with
higher education; (iii) males with higher education; (iv) think-tank representatives with
some knowledge of the ENP/EaP; and (v) control group of mixed origin. Interviews
lasted up to 2 hours; and were audio- and video-recorded, using local languages for
interlocution. The focus-group scenario mirrored the three thematic blocks used for
the survey.
59. Interview with Sergei Maskevich, chairman, foreign affairs committee, House of Representa-
tives, Minsk, 22 Sept. 2009.
60. Lashkevich, ‘Natsyyanal’naya rytoryka prezidenta: pavarot na 180 gradusau?’.
61. According to the March 2011 post-election survey, the president’s rating still remains high
among the general population: 44% of the respondents of the nation-wide representative
survey stated that they would continue voting for Lukashenko if the elections were tomorrow;
59.3% clearly stated they voted for him in the 2010 December election. The survey was jointly
commissioned by Glasgow and Aberystwyth Universities (RES-061-25-0001) and undertaken
by the Centre for Political Research, Belarusian State University. These data are also corro-
borated by other research conducted in Belarus: see, for example, Vital Silitski, ‘The Electo-
rate of the Authority: Then and Now’, Belarusian Institute of Strategic Studies, 2 Nov. 2010,
available at ,http://democraticbelarus.eu/node/10220., accessed 5 May 2011.
62. This depiction was seen by the Belarusian foreign ministry as a slogan to attract the attention
of foreigners and ‘force them to look at important details’, according to the ministry’s spokes-
man Andrei Savinykh: see ‘Belarus Is Europe’s Great Mystery, Foreign Ministry’, Telegraf,
12 Oct. 2010, available at ,http://telegraf.by/2010/08/belarus-is-europes-great-mystery-
foreign-ministry.html., accessed 10 May 2010.
63. Andrei Konchik, ‘Byt’ Belorusom’ [To be a Belarusian], 6 May 2010, available at ,http://
news.tut.by/169254.html., accessed 22 July 2010.
586 JOURNAL OF COMMUNIST STUDIES AND TRANSITION POLITICS
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... The issue is intriguing since Armenia's and Belarus' close relationship with Moscow has not precluded their cooperation with the EU, as reflected in their participation in the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and the EaP, albeit to a different extent. 3 In the dynamically evolving field of the EU external governance and the ENP/EaP studies, single-case studies of Armenia (Delcour, 2017;Vasilyan, 2017) and Belarus (Bosse, 2012;Korosteleva, 2013) have been already carried out. While there is also a smaller number of contributions exploring EU's and Russia's influence on each of the two individual countries (Delcour, 2017;Vasilyan, 2017;Vasilyan & Petrossian, 2014), these studies have not specifically focused on the reception of Russia's versus EU's conditional approaches in Belarus and Armenia. ...
... As the ENP introduced the logic of 'competition for reforms', with 'frontrunners' and laggards among six EaP states identified in every monitoring phase, all six of them politically, economically and culturally close to Russia, EU's policy and the reform efforts of the former Soviet states started to be closely followed in Moscow. In response and building upon pragmatism as a new principle of Russia's foreign policy, Moscow started to employ its own-styled negative functional conditionality, by calling upon the established linkage(s) with its neighbours, which eventually led to (re)appearance of a number of sectoral 'trade wars' (over milk, meat, wine, energy, etc) (Korosteleva, 2013;cf Samokhvalov, 2016). Russia's approach stood in stark contrast with the ENP offer underpinned by positive conditionality, a contrast further reinforced by the Russia-Georgia war over Abkhazia and South Ossetia in 2008, which attested to Russia's capacity to resort to military measures vis-à-vis the states in its 'near abroad'. ...
... Russia's subsequent position can be characterised as further consolidation of Russia's ad-hoc negative functional conditionality. One of its manifestations was recurrent trade conflicts with both EU-oriented countries such as Ukraine and pro-Russian states (Korosteleva, 2013). Heads of Russia's food safety agency (Rosselkhoznadzor) as well as consumer protection agencies (Rospotrebnadzor) became faces and voices of Russia's unpredictable trade conflicts with Russia's neighbours. ...
... The issue is intriguing since Armenia's and Belarus' close relationship with Moscow has not precluded their cooperation with the EU, as reflected in their participation in the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and the EaP, albeit to a different extent. 3 In the dynamically evolving field of the EU external governance and the ENP/EaP studies, single-case studies of Armenia (Delcour, 2017;Vasilyan, 2017) and Belarus (Bosse, 2012;Korosteleva, 2013) have been already carried out. While there is also a smaller number of contributions exploring EU's and Russia's influence on each of the two individual countries (Delcour, 2017;Vasilyan, 2017;Vasilyan & Petrossian, 2014), these studies have not specifically focused on the reception of Russia's versus EU's conditional approaches in Belarus and Armenia. ...
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... Russia's subsequent position can be characterised as further consolidation of Russia's ad-hoc negative functional conditionality. One of its manifestations was recurrent trade conflicts with both EU-oriented countries such as Ukraine and pro-Russian states (Korosteleva, 2013). Heads of Russia's food safety agency (Rosselkhoznadzor) as well as consumer protection agencies (Rospotrebnadzor) became faces and voices of Russia's unpredictable trade conflicts with Russia's neighbours. ...
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This article looks into Armenia's and Belarus’ engagement with the European Union's (EU) and Russia's conditionalities, the two EU Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries that are also members of the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). While paying attention to political, economic (including energy and technical) as well as security dimensions of the EU's and Russia's approaches, as proposed in the present special section, the article demonstrates that the conditionalities extended by the EU and Russia to the two countries in question have differed. In their turn, Armenia and Belarus have reacted differently to Russia's and the EU's conditionalities. Against the backdrop of the changing significance ascribed to both the EU's and Russia's policies towards their common neighbourhood since the 1990s, the present contribution identifies and analyses factors that account for the diverging positions of Armenia and Belarus, including the type of regime, the geopolitical considerations, the stakes in the economic and energy spheres and the predisposition to integration. The article shows that in the resulting complex context, Armenia and Belarus have been able to influence the shape and content of the EU's and Russia's conditionalities, although in a different way and to a different extent.
... Being small and dependent on regional centres of power has its own consequences. Along with many others, Belarus also became affected by the global economic and financial crises (Korosteleva 2011a), and especially market instability of the unreformed eastern region. This once again, as Kruk (2013) argues, underscores the necessity for Belarus to reduce its dependence on one economic bloc, and extend its nascent economic connections to the EU, China and other parts of the world. ...
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Defining Belarus’ place in the regional geopolitical landscape is deceptively easy: despite its formal pronouncements it is neither entirely committed to the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) or future Eurasian Union (EaU), nor is it fully integrated with the Eastern Partnership Initiative (EaP). With the accelerating pace and infrastructural development of both frameworks, Belarus finds itself increasingly at a crossroads, as a reluctant bystander facing an impending dilemma of choice between the European Union (EU) and Russia/ EEU, of significant consequence for its economic and political future.
... In the case of Belarus, Russia essentially continued its course of supporting Lukashenko and his regime as a tool to secure the geopolitical loyalty of the country. Of course, Lukashenko is not always an easy partner for Russia, and the extent to which he complies with demands from Moscow is often limited, 73 but he still appears to be the best of the possible alternatives from the point of view of the Russian regime. Russia continues to support the Belarusian regime through numerous economic channels: in 2011-2014, for example, energy subsidies (through cheap gas prices) alone amounted to 8-14 per cent of Belarusian GDP. ...
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... This country attempted to implement the policy of 'strategic balancing' (Korosteleva, 2016, p. 3) between the EU and Russia, and, in the early 2010s, it also attempted developing ties with China. 15 However, this policy remained unsuccessful (Korosteleva, 2011). Since the mid-1990s, the country has been subject to various rounds of US and EU sanctions; periods of partial improvement of relations followed by periods of new conflicts, as a reaction to new waves of repressions in Belarus (Gaidelyte, 2010). ...
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President of the Philippines PANIMULA Speaker Feliciano Belmonte; Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile; Vice President Jejomar Binay; Chief Justice Renato Corona; Former Presidents Fidel Valdez Ramos and Joseph Ejercito Estrada; members of the House of Representatives and the Senate; distinguished members of the diplomatic corps; my fellow workers in government; Mga minamahal kong kababayan: Sa bawat sandali po ng pamamahala ay nahaharap tayo sa isang sangandaan. Sa isang banda po ay ang pagpili para sa ikabubuti ng taumbayan. Ang pagtanaw sa interes ng nakakarami; ang pagkapit sa prinsipyo; at ang pagiging tapat sa sinumpaan nating tungkulin bilang lingkod-bayan. Ito po ang tuwid na daan. Sa kabilang banda ay ang pag-una sa pansariling interes. Ang pagpapaalipin sa pulitikal na konsiderasyon, at pagsasakripisyo ng kapakanan ng taumbayan. Ito po ang baluktot na daan. Matagal pong naligaw ang pamahalaan sa daang baluktot. Araw-araw po, lalong lumilinaw sa akin ang lawak ng problemang ating namana. Damang-dama ko ang bigat ng aking responsibilidad. Sa unang tatlong linggo ng aming panunungkulan, marami po kaming natuklasan. Nais ko pong ipahayag sa inyo ang iilan lamang sa mga namana nating suliranin at ang ginagawa naming hakbang para lutasin ang mga ito. Sulyap lamang po ito; hindi pa ito ang lahat ng problemang haharapin natin. Inilihim at sadyang iniligaw ang sambayanan sa totoong kalagayan ng ating bansa. PROBLEMA SA BUDGET Sa unang anim na buwan ng taon, mas malaki ang ginastos ng gobyerno kaysa sa pumasok na kita. Lalong lumaki ang deficit natin, na umakyat na sa 196.7 billion pesos. Sa target na kuleksyon, kinapos tayo ng 23.8 billion pesos; ang tinataya namang gastos, nalagpasan natin ng 45.1 billion pesos.
s comments concerning the plan for ousting Lukashenko from power in the case of Russia's withdrawing its support: Brian Whitmore, 'Has Moscow Had Enough of Belarus' Lukashenka?
  • See
  • Leonid In
  • Zaika
See in particular Leonid Zaika's comments concerning the plan for ousting Lukashenko from power in the case of Russia's withdrawing its support: Brian Whitmore, 'Has Moscow Had Enough of Belarus' Lukashenka?', RL/RFE (19 July 2010), available at,http://www.rferl. org/content/has_Moscow_Had_Enough_of_Belaruss_Lukashenka/2104099.html., accessed 22 July 2010.
At a Crossroads: The Belarusian -Russian Energy-political Model in Crisis
  • Margarita Balmaceda
Margarita Balmaceda, 'At a Crossroads: The Belarusian -Russian Energy-political Model in Crisis', in Fischer (ed.), Back from the Cold, pp.79-93 (p.80).
The Belarusian Economic Miracle – Illusions and Reality Back From the Cold? The EU and Belarus in 2009
  • Leonid Zlotnikov
Leonid Zlotnikov, 'The Belarusian Economic Miracle – Illusions and Reality', in Sabine Fischer (ed.), Back From the Cold? The EU and Belarus in 2009, Chaillot Paper No.119 (Nov. 2009) (Paris: European Union Institute for Security Studies), pp.65–79.
IMF Approves Final Stand-by Loan Tranche for Belarus
  • Andrey Serada
Andrey Serada, 'IMF Approves Final Stand-by Loan Tranche for Belarus', 27 March 2010, available at,http://naviny.by/rubrics/english/2010/03/27/ic_articles_259_167232., accessed 22 July 2010.
Russia's Alliance with Belarus May Lead to War', Pravda
  • Belarusian Foreign
BELARUSIAN FOREIGN POLICY 39. 'Russia's Alliance with Belarus May Lead to War', Pravda, 7 June 2009, available at,http:// english.pravda.ru/world/ussr/07-06-2009/107731-russia_belarus-0., accessed 22 June 2010.