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Political analyst Kirill Koktysh on Belarus-Russia relations

Kirill Koktysh, a famous expert in foreign policy, docent of Moscow State Institute of International Relations, shared with the CTV Channel several aspects of Belarus-Russia relations after negotiations in Saint Petersburg between Alexander Lukashenko and Vladimir Putin.
Good afternoon, Mr. Koktysh.

Mr. Koktysh:
Good afternoon.
We met at the Exhibition of Economic Achievements. What achievements can Belarusians and Russians boast?

Actually, the amount of achievements is rather big. It is preserved industrial enterprises.

Yes, of course, that’s not the production amounts we saw in Soviet times.

But this amount is quite acceptable to preserve engineering potential and - what is more important - school for engineering training and, accordingly, the working class. It’s because Belarus is the only country of the region where there is qualified labor surplus while there is deficit everywhere around.

The two presidents managed to come to an agreement only through private negotiations. Does it mean that there are certain forces within the states for which good Belarus-Russia relations are disadvantageous? Can the conflict be settled only at such a high level?

Yes, in fact Belarus-Russia relations are poorly institutionalized. The institutions that were supposed to work and mustn’t have allowed such exacerbation of relations just didn’t work. And the presidents had to deal with it personally.

But Belarus needs to take an active role in the construction of the Eurasian Economic Union in future. Now, when import substitution is discussed in Russia under the influence of western sanctions, it’s mentioned that it’s necessary to use native industry. Belarusian industry is a Belarusian trump-card.

It’s because Russia-Europe trade turnover had slumped by $100-120 billion.

There is one more very important factor. Gradual cooling of the USA- China relations is absolutely programmed.  Just because Trump can “make America great again” only through a very serious pressing of Chinese industry. It means that the flows of Chinese resources will be redirected somewhere. And the Eurasian Economic Union can easily become a recipient of these flows. I’ll voice only one figure: according to Chinese calculations,

the Eurasian Union has a sixfold growth potential in comparison with current development of world economy.

Everyone who were following the campaigning in the USA pinned great hopes on Donald Trump’s victory. They hoped he would improve relations between Russia and the USA. Belarus as a neighboring state of Russia also counted on some kind of thaw in Belarus-Russia relations. Can Belarus look for it? Please, share your opinion.

I think we won’t know what kind of America there will be during Trump’s office before political in-fighting comes to an end. It’s about two years. The USA won’t do anything substantive before, they won’t even manage to articulate their agenda.

Trump will maneuver and try to gain a footing.

But he won’t make any explicit decisions that could put him in a position from which he wouldn’t manage to get out.

What about night’s air-strike against Syria? Aren’t there the decisive steps that he makes?

These steps are not decisive at all. It’s a domestic policy message to show that Trump can do something.

He needs a little victorious war.

The USA had already stressed that it was a one-time action and they won’t go further. Nevertheless, it will definitely carry consequences and won’t strengthen the US position. The purpose was to strengthen Trump’s domestic political authority, not to achieve something in Syrian direction.

If you don’t mind, let’s go back to the meeting of the Belarusian and Russian presidents in Saint Petersburg. Is it possible that the very fact of the holding of these negotiations in such a mournful time for the Russian Federation (it’s about the explosion in St Petersburg on April 3, 2017), shows the depth of relations between these states?

Of course, it does show it. But it must be considered that both of the presidents have enough experience in working in force majeure conditions. Things needed to be done, backlogs needed to be raked away. And the meeting couldn’t be cancelled, although it’s a common threat and a common pain, such things just mustn’t happen.

We all understood that the cooling of Belarus-Russia relations was not for quarrelling but for coming to an agreement.

As one classic writer said, sometimes it’s necessary to settle the boundaries in order to unite and to discuss problems instead of pretending that everything’s alright”. Belarus is a strategic ally of Russia and Russia is a strategic ally of Belarus. Tactical considerations and especially some games of particular groups of influence mustn’t influence the general nature of relations that are still quite close.

As Alexander Lukashenko said at the meeting, 60% of each Belarusian tractor is  made from Russian components.

There is a mechanism and all we need to do is just to keep it functioning. Sometimes we need to rub it, sometimes we need to take care of it but never ever cancel it.

Thank you for the conversation, nice to see you again.

Thank you. Goodbye.

Political analyst Kirill Koktysh on Belarus-Russia relations