November 29, 2013

Ukraine between Russia and the EU

Following the suspension of the process of European integration of Ukraine with its simultaneous shift towards rapprochement with Russia and the Customs Union, the consequences of such a decision will not have to wait long. They can even be modeled by Belarus, who in its time returned under Russia's control.

In particular, as Moscow had promised, Belarus was granted certain economic preferences with respect to the decline in gas prices and opening wider access to the Russian market (which now Russia promises to Ukraine). At the same time, we should note that the preferences were only temporary and cannot be compared with real geopolitical and economic losses of the state. What is meant here?

Firstly, the resumption of Russia's domination over Belarus has actually deprived the latter of the opportunity to pursue an independent foreign policy. Thus, have failed Belarus' attempts to refocus its economic and political ties to China and other countries in the situation of new complications in Belarusian- Russian relations this summer. Any attempts of Belarusians were rigidly suppressed by Moscow using for this the alliance commitments of Belarus within the framework of various integration associations, led by the Russian Federation. Belarus was even forced to support the activities of Russia's economic pressure on Ukraine, which does not meet the interests of Belarus;

Secondly, the anti-Western positions of Belarus, as well as its support for the Russian policy of confrontation with the United States, NATO and the European Union (judging from Moscow's actions in regard to Ukraine and other countries-members of the EU program “Eastern Partnership”) objectively cause negative reaction of Western countries and international organizations. And as a result — the Western world has actually isolated Belarus, having blocked its access to Western markets, credits and investments, to the advanced world technologies;

Thirdly, membership of Belarus in the CIS integration organizations, including the Customs Union, does not mean that Russia will protect its economic interests. Access of Belarusan goods (in particular confectionery, meat and dairy and beverages) to the Russian market has never expanded, Russia continues using the energy factor as a tool of pressure on Belarus, limiting, for example, the supply of oil, increasing tariffs on oil products for Belarusan consumers, manipulating gas prices. Moreover, with Minsk's having joined the Customs Union, domestic prices have increased, substantial problems emerged in national business activity due to increased competition from Russia, Russians are fully controlling the Belarusan economy. The Russian Federation provides loans to Belarus only if there are political concessions of the Belarusan side. In many cases, Russia privatizes Belarusan enterprises or establishes joint industrial structures solely to eliminate Belarusan competitors from the market, as it happened with “Belaruskali “;

Fourthly, as a result of such actions, the Belarusan economy is deteriorating, living standards are falling, social problems get sharper, inflation and unemployment are growing, the working week is reduced, and so on. It is clear that all this not in the best way affects the credibility of the country's leadership, provokes discontent of Belarusan citizens, activates opposition, causes Belarusans' negative attitude both, to the Russian Federation and to its integration initiatives. According to sociological researches, today the President of Belarus A. Lukashenko is being supported by not more than 10 % of citizens (mostly the retired from Soviet times), and more than 70% of the republic's residents would use an opportunity to go abroad for permanent residence;

Fifthly, the conditions prevailing in Belarus, in fact do not allow the country's leadership to hold power in their hands without the use of harsh measures for suppression of the opposition, without restriction of democratic norms and freedoms (including freedom of speech and other basic human rights) and without falsification of elections at all levels. All this taken together keeps adding to the negative attitude of the West to Belarus and actually leads to the loss of legitimacy of the current regime;

Sixthly, the dissatisfaction of the population of Belarus with its authorities could result in massive social upheavals. Belarusan authorities in this see the main threat to their security and, therefore, direct the power structures of the country in the first place to counter its own population. Judging by the experience of the Russian-Belarusian maneuvers “West-2013” and the held on the territory of Belarus trainings within the Collective Security Treaty, various civil actions in Belarus will be suppressed by their own army and police and security forces of military allies of the Belarusian authorities, including Russia and the Central Asian CSTO member states, that is, foreign powers.

In general, the foregoing factors make it possible to draw a number of strategic conclusions regarding both, Belarus and Ukraine or other countries, facing a choice of their geopolitical foreign policy, namely:

Belarusan leadership's refusal from the European choice, the return of Belarus under the control of the Russian Federation have resulted in a predominantly negative consequences in terms of loss of political independence, deterioration of the country's economy and worsening of its social problems, limitations of international legitimacy of the state leadership, as well as complications of its relations with Western countries and international organizations, which has significantly limited the access of Belarus to Western markets, loans and investments and modern technologies. At this, the Belarusan side's participation in integration structures in the CIS not only did not guarantee the security of its interests, but provided Russia with additional leverage for pressure on it;

taking into consideration that in Ukraine and Belarus situations are similar, the same problems are bound to be in our state. Naturally, if Ukraine finally abandons its European integration, with the termination of cooperation with the EU, will be automatically broken the program of the European Union's participation in the development of the Ukrainian economy and modernization of the Ukrainian gas transportation system, as well as much more complicated will become obtaining loans from the World Bank's financial institutions, the IMF included. At the same time, based on previous experience of both, our state (in particular, the notorious “Kharkiv agreements”) and other countries, including Belarus, Russia's promises to provide financial assistance to Ukraine and reduce gas prices will not necessarily be carried out. Thus, without waiting for a final rejection of Ukraine Association Agreement with the EU, the management of the Russian “Gazprom” has denied the statement of the Ukrainian leadership on plans to reduce gas prices. Although the promised to Ukraine Russian loans (according to media, in the amount of “20 billion US dollars”), most likely as usual, will be used to “fill in the gaps“ in the Ukrainian economy, and not for its real development;

Kiev's concessions to Moscow in matters of its European integration in the future will inevitably turn into Russians' claims. In the first place, they will force Ukraine to join the Customs Union in order to get it in the future to join the Eurasian Union, and in fact, to include it into the new Russian empire. Besides, the failure of signing of the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU will be taken by Russia as its geopolitical victory over the European Union, which will be the basis for strengthening Moscow's pressure on Brussels, etc.