Belarusian side cleans up the migrant camp on the border with Poland, people were transferred to a logistics center nearby. Alexander Lukashenko admitted that the Belarusian security forces could help migrants break through to the territory of the European Union.
Is it possible to say that the migration crisis on the border is nearing its end, what has influenced and can affect Lukashenka and what will be the economic consequences of the situation of recent weeks on the border of Belarus with Poland and Lithuania. We asked economist Yaroslav Romanchuk about this.
– Belarus is clearing a camp on the border. Scared [польского] an ultimatum to suspend rail freight traffic through the Kuznitsa point, in your opinion?
– They scared, scared – and listened to the West, listened to Vladimir Putin, who called for a dialogue with the opposition, decided that was enough. Therefore, I don’t think that any one moment served as the last straw that broke Lukashenka’s patience. But he fulfilled his tactical tasks: he showed that he is strong, he showed that he is against the West. And, of course, he said that we are with Russia, we can handle everything. I think, proceeding from the fact that both winter and he ruined relations with the Arab countries, and even with himself within the country, did not receive any additional price points and popularity, and it was decided to curtail the operation “Hybrid Migration War”.
– You mentioned Putin’s statement that it is worth sitting down at the negotiating table with the Belarusian opposition. What do you think it meant? He offers to sit down from Tikhanovskaya [за стол переговоров], To release Babariko from prison?
– Note that he did not say with what opposition. In Belarus, as in Russia, there is an unconstructive opposition, there are traitors – and there are those who can be called the opposition. Nobody knows who this opposition will be, but how can one say that so [Кремль решил] beckon or wave your finger. Especially, as I understand it, the Kremlin did not like precisely the things connected with threats to cut off gas transit, oil transit. Because Lukashenka talks about Germany, about Poland, about the European Union – but, in fact, he threatens Russia with the breakdown of contracts with the European Union, and this is a completely different conversation. Therefore, Lukashenka realized that he had gone too far, and it was too dangerous for him to play further in this “hybrid war”.
– Do you think it was his decision to talk about a possible suspension of gas supplies to Europe? He could not but know that this section belongs to Gazprom and that such statements should not be made without the Kremlin’s approval.
– You shouldn’t do without the consent of the Kremlin, but you can say anything you want. Lukashenka has such a concept as “blurted out”: blurted out in the heat of a fight, struggle, exchange of emotional assessments. These on him: “Dictator!” – and these say: “And I will cut off the gas for you now.” But this verbal part of the Cold Information War ended, and Lukashenka realized that he was not ready to take concrete steps. But nevertheless, even for three days he blocked off oil pipeline: suddenly some technical danger was discovered. So you see, Lukashenka even here remained a little faithful to himself.
– Do you think that everything that we now see at the border, and the fact that the plane was sent to Iraq yesterday, is evidence that the crisis is being resolved gradually? Or is it too early to talk about it?
– It is too early to talk about this, because the crisis may acquire some other forms: for example, there is still a free border of Ukraine, where there is no such tough protection as in Poland or Lithuania. Therefore, there is an assumption that something may become aggravated there. Or it was such a test of combat readiness and ability of the European Union. We do not know, but there is a well-founded opinion that this was agreed with the Kremlin, such a migration attack. How it will end: either there will be some new phases of the conflict with the European Union, or there will be some new form of cooperation, cooperation with the Russian armed forces – we do not know, but we will see.
– This crisis, the aggravation of the last days, how will it economically affect Belarus?
– You know, there have already been four packages of European Union sanctions. At the same time, we notice absolutely amazing things from the point of view of the logic of the European Union, such as a doubling of the export of goods to the EU from Belarus, an increase in the EU’s share in the export of goods to Belarus from 16% to 25%. Even food exports to the European Union have grown by almost 40%. All those sanctions that were introduced – their regime reminds me of Swiss cheese, which has many more holes than this cheese itself. Therefore, Lukashenka is using such a regime with might and main, trying to frighten and say that he is very strong.
In fact, the indicators of the economy that we have today are: GDP growth of 2.4%, a positive balance of trade in goods and services, a stable Belarusian ruble and even an increase in wages. Lukashenka swaggers in front of an internal voter, saying that he can do it and he is still strong. Therefore, he demands legitimacy not so much from the European Union as convincing the Belarusians of his own legitimacy, that he is the president.
– And how does this come out: GDP growth, and a surplus, and an increase in wages, which you are talking about – under sanctions?
– Because the sanctions have not entered into force, in fact. The sanctions imposed on enterprises are easy to circumvent. Sectoral sanctions: oil products, potash fertilizers – will come into force either at the end of the year or next year. They are made in such a way that first it is necessary to wait for the fulfillment of the old contracts, and the old contracts, as we understand it, can be extended until the end of 2022. At the same time, indeed, the Belarusian authorities are very lucky with the demand for traditional export goods: oil products, metals, woodworking, chemical products, which are really in demand on the world market. And here we have such a paradoxical situation: Lukashenka, on the one hand, seems to be under sanctions, and, on the other hand, his economy is much better than it was last year.