MOSCOW, September 7. /TASS/. Russian and Belarusian presidents Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko will hardly manage to iron out all problems in bilateral relations at their forthcoming talks, although the Belarusian leader said he hoped to "dot all i’s" on the most sensitive and painful issues existing in bilateral relations, the deputy director of the Institute of the CIS Countries, Vladimir Zharikhin, told TASS on Monday.
"The way I see it, Lukashenko is being a little bit impulsive. It is impossible to dot all the i’s so fast. Many problems of Russia-Belarus integration are subjective and have subjective problems behind them. One is that Russia is an energy-excessive country, while Belarus is energy-deficient," Zharikhin said. "Very often the national interests of the two countries contradict each other and it takes compromises to settle them. This factor is bound to last."
Zharikhin believes that further steps to build and develop the Union State of Russia and Belarus will be impeded by disproportions between the two partners, such as the size of their territory, the population and the GDP. At the same time, he hopes that these problems will be gradually eliminated provided there is the political will in Moscow and Minsk. But it should not be expected, though, that synchronization of positions will be achieved at the first personal meeting between the two leaders following Lukashenko’s re-election, Zharikhin stressed.
Context is important
Zharikhin stressed that the internal political crisis in Belarus will have a certain effect on Lukashenko’s negotiating positions and his readiness to compromise on major issues.
"But if Lukashenko’s readiness to come to terms depends exclusively on the internal political situation in Belarus, it will be certainly a temporary factor. This is bad, because interstate relations are a lengthy process and they should not depend on the position in which the national leaders are at the moment," he noted. "Incentives for integration should stem not only from Lukashenko’s precarious internal political position."
At their forthcoming meeting, Zharikhin believes, Putin and Lukashenko will apparently focus on the political crisis in Belarus, the international situation involving Moscow, Minsk and the West, and the grave situation in the global economy. The complexities and controversies that occurred in bilateral negotiations in recent years were a result of the Belarusian leader’s reluctance to ease up on some of his demands in view of the objective economic difficulties facing both countries, the analyst thinks.
"The Russian leadership asks Lukashenko to bear in mind the complex situation in the world economy and the sanctions. We, Russians, it says, have had to tighten the belts. You are our partner, and we expect you to follow suit. But he says ‘No. We want to have gas at a price identical to that in the neighboring Smolensk Region right away. Let’s ease the belt as much as possible.’"
Invigoration of contacts
On Monday, Russian presidential spokesman, Dmitry Peskov said that Lukashenko’s visit to Moscow will take place in the near future, thus dismissing media reports it was scheduled for September 13.
Moscow and Minsk stepped up bilateral contacts against the backdrop of protest demonstrations following the August 9 presidential election. Putin was one of the first foreign leaders who congratulated Lukashenko upon his election as the head of state. The two leaders have since held several telephone conversations.
On September 2, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his Belarusian counterpart Vladimir Makei met in Moscow. Lavrov said that Russia would make a harsh response to all attempts to pull Belarus away from the Union State. Also, he opposed the attempts to impose foreign mediation in settling the internal political crisis on Minsk. The next day Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin visited the Belarusian capital. The two sides noted considerable progress in settling a number of issues that constituted major controversies just recently.