BISS: Minsk derives both political and economic benefits from Ukrainian crisis


The Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies reports on strengthening of the bilateral relations between Belarus and Ukraine

Kiev and Minsk will further develop their bilateral relations. The official Minsk derives tangible benefits, both political and economic, from the crisis in Ukraine, write the authors of the report "Foreign Policy Index" prepared by the Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies (BISS) in January-February 2015.

According to the study, at the beginning of 2015, the relations between Belarus and Ukraine remained strong: "Belarus is interested in keeping one of its major outlet markets. In spite of serious problems in the Ukrainian economy, there has been no fall in the turnover."

The official Minsk does its best to maintain its status of a mediator in addressing the Ukrainian crisis, to secure its own security, to maintain good relations with Russia and Ukraine and to improve its international image, the BISS states.

According to the experts, Minsk was "quite cautious but generally pro-Ukrainian" in its attitude to the conflict in Ukraine and in the Donbass region."

"In general, the official Minsk continues to hold to last year's stance – to support Ukraine's territorial integrity, to disapprove of the annexation of the Crimea by Russia from the legal perspective, to show friendly attitude to the leadership of this country," the experts say.

The BISS reminds the statements of the Ambassador of Belarus to Ukraine Valentin Velichko on the inadmissibility of the introduction of foreign troops into the territory of Ukraine from the territory of Belarus and on the recognition of Ukraine`s integrity within its constitution. In addition, the index points peacekeeping and mediation initiatives of Belarus, as well as the role of Minsk as a negotiation platform on the Ukrainian issue.

"An important event for bilateral trade relations happened in January - the countries moved to the long-term contract settles in hryvnas, except for the supplies of petroleum products. The Belarusian Foreign Ministry explained that fact by the lack of foreign currency funds for the implementation of international agreements. This decision is ambiguous from the economic perspective due to sudden devaluations of the Ukrainian national currency, but most experts noted that in the long run, it would help Belarus build its business in the Ukrainian market," added the BISS.

Another aspect of the bilateral relations, which the analysts find important, is the issue of electricity supply, which has traditionally been one of the major items of the Ukrainian export to Belarus. "However, since last October, Ukraine has halted exports due to the deficit caused by the problems in the coal industry because of the war in the Donbas region. Moreover, Kiev has expressed interest in importing electricity from Belarus. On February 25, the Belarusian Minister of Energy Vladimir Potupchik said that Belarus is ready to supply energy to Ukraine, "says the index.

The BISS experts emphasize that the Ukrainian crisis has already brought Minsk tangible economic benefits: "Kiev is considering converting some power plants to the fuel oil due to the deficit of coal and the problems with the Russian gas supplies. Most of the fuel oil is expected to be imported from Belarus. In addition, "Naftogaz of Ukraine" is considering the possibility of refining "Ukrnafta" oil at Mozyr Oil Refinery on a give-and-take basis. A corresponding proposal was sent to the Belarusian company at the end of January." Analysts predict the strengthening of cooperation between the two countries in the energy sector.

Deeper cooperation in the international context is also possible, the BISS adds. So, Poroshenko said that Ukraine could contribute to the development of relations between Belarus and the EU countries within the Eastern Partnership.

"Lobbying the West for the interests of Minsk by the Ukrainian leadership can become actual given the decision of Kiev to involve international peacekeepers into the conflict in Donbas. The Ukrainian diplomat Alexander Chaly said that the major Western capitals supported that initiative, as well as the initiative of the official Minsk to act as peacemakers. The intentions of the official Minsk were proved by the media which reported in January that the leadership of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Belarus had started to form peacekeeping troops meant to maintain peace outside the territory of Belarus," the analysts say. In addition, the BISS predicts tension between Belarus and Russia in the coming months, if a sharp escalation of the conflict in Ukraine doesn`t happen. The experts are convinced that in this case, "it will be difficult for the Belarusian leadership to stick to a neutral position on the Ukrainian crisis."

"The relations with Russia will also depend on the normalization of relations between Belarus and the European Union and the United States, which causes suspicions of the Russian leadership. However, Minsk is not interested in the deterioration of relations with the Russian Federation prior to the presidential elections, because Russia remains the only reliable creditor of Belarus until the new program is adopted by IMF," noted the BISS.

According to the analysts, the relations between Belarus and the EU will remain as strong as they are now, at least till the Eastern Partnership Summit, which will be held in Riga in May 2015.

Text by TUT.BY

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