Policy briefs

Mon, 2013-08-19 15:33

By Siarhei Bohdan

In the last days of July, the backbone of Belarusian economy - the potash industry - suffered a severe blow dealt by its Russian partner. The Russian company Uralkali refused to work anymore with the Belarusian Potash Company (BKK), a joint enterprise of Uralkali and Belaruskali authorised to sell their products throughout the world. These developments have seriously weakened the global position of Belaruskali. The “potash collapse” is just one more illustration of the problematic relations between Belarus and Russia. Both Russian private business and the government do not perceive their Belarusian counterparts as equal partners. Additionally, Belarusians have to work with Russian business without a sufficient legal framework. In these circumstances, integration between the two countries has had no real chance from the very beginning.

Fri, 2013-08-09 12:57
By Siarhei Bohdan
Belarusians have a special attitude to Israel. In the only world's country where Yiddish ever was a state language, almost every family – even of non-Jewish origin – has either relatives, friends or acquaintances there. No wonder, three out of nine Israeli presidents, including the current president Shimon Peres are Belarusian Jews. At the same time, Belarus for years has enjoyed quite dynamic relations with both Israel and Iran. Till 2003, Minsk maintained very close links with Saddam’s Iraq, as well. These parallel links with the states hostile to each other demonstrate that the Belarusian government is not so primitive as it sometimes seems. It is able handle such dilemmas and pragmatically avoids ideology. Belarusian officials never treat Israel in a way they treat the EU or US.
Wed, 2013-07-31 12:55
Experts point out that Minsk is increasingly warming towards China; they interpret Beijing's recent behaviour as an attempt to find a new route for bringing Chinese commodities to the Russian market. "Beijing is interested in finding new routes to Moscow, and might be looking to exploit the benefits provided by the Customs Union, of which Belarus is a member [as is Russia], in order to gain unhindered access to the Russian market," Kirill Koktysh, an analyst with Moscow State University of International Relations, said in an interview to Russian daily Kommersant.
Wed, 2013-07-24 10:07

BISS presents the new, fourteenth issue of Belarus Foreign Policy Index, which analyzes the evolution of the five foreign policy priorities of the country in May and June 2013. The most significant shift observed during this period is the rapid growth in the Ukrainian and Russian vectors amid less determined efforts in the relationships with the EU, China and the developing world. The main trends recorded in the framework of Belarus-Russia relations were the increase in Russia’s pressure and inability of the Belarusian administration to effectively withstand this pressure. As dependence on Belarus’s eastern neighbor grows stronger, Russia does not take official Minsk’s ‘push-pull’ foreign policy seriously anymore.

Wed, 2013-07-24 09:18

By Siarhei Bohdan

More Russian military bases may appear in Belarus soon. According to naviny.by, a Belapan news agency web site an entire aviation division may soon be deployed. This report, however, referred only to an expert from the dubious Russian “Academy of Geopolitical Problems”. Belarusian military expert Alexander Alesin predicted that “as ability of the national air forces for battle diminish, the air borders of Belarus will be increasingly guarded by Russian military pilots.” Earlier, the opposition media negatively commented on the symbolic presence of Russian paratroopers at a military parade in Minsk on 3 July. Speculations and fears of the Russian military overtaking Belarus are also prominently featured in Belarusian politics. Often they help both the opposition and the government to achieve their other political aims.

Fri, 2013-07-19 11:40

by Ryhor Astapenia

On 17 July, the Belarusian state leader completed his visit to China. According to Lukashenka, Belarus will become a pillow for the Chinese Empire in Europe. The meetings were full of pomposity, but the results seem modest.

Although Belarus has signed a Joint Declaration on the establishment of the relations of comprehensive strategic partnership, a number of contracts and agreements, the authorities have not achieved the main goal - to attract direct investments.

Wed, 2013-07-10 16:02

By Yauheni Preiherman

Belarus has one of the oldest governments among all of the post-Soviet nations. The average age of the high level state officials has reached 56 years. The average age of the Council of Minister’s members alone equals 55 years. This is 6-8 years higher than in Russia and Ukraine and about 20 years higher than in some advanced post-Soviet reformist governments. The average age of the most senior officials in Belarus also becomes higher than in the neighbouring states. As the majority of the high-ranking officials, who have been in top positions for the last 10-15 years get older the average age grows. With some exceptions, instances of young officials joining the top governing elite remain rare. This raises serious concerns about how Belarus could go through the challenges of the declared economic modernisation.

Thu, 2013-07-04 16:08

Residents of Vialiki Bor in southern Belarus recently took part in the folk tradition of expelling a "rusalka," or water sprite, from their village in order to ensure a good harvest. During the traditional celebration, villagers bring a young woman dressed as a mermaid to a field of rye, where they strip wreaths from her and throw them into a bonfire. The mermaid is then escorted out of the village so that she doesn't interfere with crop production or cause conflicts among neighbors. (Video by RFE/RL's Belarus Service)

Fri, 2013-06-28 14:27

By Balázs Jarábik, Alexei Pikulik and Andrei Yeliseyeu

An assessment of Belarus’s membership in the Common Economic Space (CES) offers an insight into what a future Eurasian Union (EAU), to be launched in 2015, may look like. The CES, formally established in January 2012, is seen as a pet project of Russian President Vladimir Putin, largely based on the Customs Union established in 2009 between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan and on the Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEc). The new integration process reflects Moscow’s efforts to create a supranational regulatory framework inspired on – and partly ‘copy-pasted’ from – the European Union (EU). However, Russia has given potential members little time to integrate, decision-making remains opaque, and a full-fledged Eurasian Union is likely to be delayed by Belarus and Kazakhstan.

Fri, 2013-06-21 13:45

By Ruhor Astapenia

On 22 June, ten years will have passed since the great Belarusian writer Vasil Bykau passed away. Bykau’s works have become regarded as masterpieces of world literature. Foreign publishing companies translated his books into more than 40 languages, and the overall copies put out have reached up into the millions. The new film In the Fog was based on one of his books and has already won several awards in Europe. For Belarus, Bykau symbolizes something more than just a writer. He arose at the beginning of the Belarusian independence, helped the Belarusian Popular Front and publicly and consistently opposed Lukashenka's authoritarianism. His civil activity set an example of civic responsibility which public figures should live by.