You are here

Expert Mikhail Delyagin on relations between Russia and Belarus

There can't be long-standing idyll even in relationships between relatives. But, following Bulgakov's metaphors, it is better not to set fire to the communal apartment in which Belarus and Russia live, advises Russian economist, journalist and politician Mikhail Delyagin. Author of the TV program Simple Questions Yegor Khrustalev made an interview with the expert.

What are the opinions in the Russian society about relations between Russia and Belarus?

Mikhail Delyagin, director of the Institute of Globalization Problems:
In Russian society, there are liberals who come from the fact that what is beneficial for General Motors is good for Russia too. And that is not very interesting at least for one Polish shopkeeper, is absolutely unacceptable for Russia. Most people are not particularly interested in politics. Here the common agitators are… Belarusian shops! You go to Belarusian stores and you see relatively cheap products of quite good quality. On the other hand, people who come to Belarus ask: "Don't you have unemployment and the hungry? But we want to dance; we want to have pants of a different color." But against the background of Russia, this Belarusian order, neatness, lack of crime, normal roads and normal people make a very strong impression.

Now we often hear discussions and read it on forums... That Russians blame Belarus for taking so many subsidies... They say "you owe us" and so on...

Mikhail Delyagin:
When you come to the market, you can always haggle. Our overall strategic business is the modernization of Russia. So if there are 10 million people, who have normal farming and very good engineering, so for what market can they work? For ours. What is happening to our market? It's very bad. As soon as Russia begins modernization all Belarusian engineering factories, most of the chemical industry will work in three shifts.
The only common thing is the modernization of Russia. If you come up with another common cause, I'll be happy. Accordingly, when there is no common cause, there is no overall strategy, we come to the market not as a people united by a common idea, but as the seller and the buyer. In half of the issues one is seller and the other is customer. Naturally, we start to haggle with enthusiasm.  Firstly, both have nerves.
For the President of Belarus, trade with Russia is primary. What is Ukraine for Belarus in terms of trade? Little. The destruction of the economy, there is no money. What will they gain from trade with the European Union? Not very much - the market is closed. Yes, you can break into those markets, welcome! But you won't get such strong demand. They have their own goods and they are in crisis too. And this crisis is forever, I mean for the time of our generation. Therefore, objectively Russia is the main task for the President of Belarus. I'm not talking about culture, history and memory. Objectively. For Russia, the main problem is not to start WWIII. If Hillary had won, its likelihood would become very real. But all the problems remained. We do not know what to do with Ukraine, we really don't. We do not know what to do with Syria.

Against the background of such a large issues, don't you think that the issues between Belarus and Russia are too small to escalate the situation so much?

Mikhail Delyagin:
You know, we have, unfortunately, not a very well-controlled management system. And Belarus does not understand it. In Belarus, there is a clear power vertical. We have a situation where a rigid vertical of power exists literally in two or three political issues. In all other respects, there is no control, it does not exist. And officials take the initiative as they understand it.  Imagine: you manage Gazprom. And you are told: "We have a problem with the budget. We need $500 million tomorrow." He begins to think: "Oh, listen, we can take this money from Belarus. The conflict, of course, will arise, but it will not be very large. In the end, the sides will agree. And I have a cover - I tried to execute the instructions. And even if I will be reprimanded over Belarus, I have a chance not to carry out the order or carry it out only partially." This is what the logic could be. There is a logic: "Belarusians have social protection; it is contrary to my liberal ideology, it is a crime."

Why Russian liberals worry about social protection in Belarus?

Mikhail Delyagin:
Bad example. It is ideology. You see, if it is clear that there is a social protection for a quarter of a century, and it does not destroy the economy, the economy is efficient, public order is in place, people are impressed with Belarus... This is the normal attitude of any religion to heretics, it is a temptation that should be burned at the stake. In public. Because otherwise we'll have the same. And the money that I now hand to my owner thanks to the destruction of social protection... It will simply disappear. We can spoil our future. And Belarus can ruin the future of Russia. No problems. And Russia can spoil the future of Belarus. And its own too. It is common for both Belarus and Russia. Ilf and Petrov described the fire in a communal apartment caused by its tenants. It was during the Soviet era, and all the tenants knew that they would be taken care of and that they would not freeze. They will still be resettled. Soviet power came to an end, it does not exist, at least in Russia. No one will take care of us if we set fire to our house from both ends.

Expert Mikhail Delyagin on relations between Russia and Belarus