Updated at 17:18,18-06-2021

Expert: Of all post-Soviet countries, Belarus is the most dependent on Russia

Aliaksei Jurych, EuroBelarus

To minimize negative effects and prevent Belarus’ involvement in Russian conflicts Belarus should keep distance from Russia's foreign policy.

On May 31 the Institute "Political Sphere" presented the study "Challenges to the Belarusian foreign policy and the post-Soviet area after 2008".

The study is focused on the economic, political, and military cooperation experience between the EAEC countries and Eastern Partnership countries since 2008 (the beginning of the global economic crisis and the Russian-Georgian conflict).

The conclusion made by the Institute "Political Sphere" is distressing: of all post-Soviet countries, Belarus is the most dependent on Russia. However, even facing complete dependence on Russia, our country can diversify its economic and political relations, without entering into an open conflict with Russia.

Director of the Institute "Political Sphere" Andrei Kazakevich comments upon the results of the study in the interview with the "EuroBelarus" Information Service.

- There is a debate in the political and scientific literature on the prospect of Russian-Western confrontation in the EAEC and the "Eastern Partnership" region. However, figures show that Russia's position in the region but for certain sectors is very weak, especially when it comes to economy. Only one country – Belarus – is fully absorbed in the Russian economic sphere of influence. It is only for two countries – Belarus and Kirgizia – that Russia is the main economic partner. For other republics of the post-Soviet Union the EU is the main economic partner. In certain countries (Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan), Russia is even forced to fight for the second place with Turkey or China.

Russia has a good economic position in only three countries (Belarus, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan); however, given that, more than 48% of Armenian exports go to the EU and the US. Russia accounts for only 18% (according to the average rate in 2008-2014).

Also, there is a big difference in the political potential of Russia and the West in the region. Russia is in the open or potential conflict with the four countries (Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova, Azerbaijan). Thus, Russia simply cannot develop normal relations with half of the countries in the region. Political opportunities are even more limited by the fact that Russia is in conflict with other major actors in the post-Soviet area: the EU, the US and, of late, Turkey.

The EU and the US, on the contrary, have no such problems. There are no open conflicts and all the countries are willing to cooperate. Some countries are closely connected with the EU’s/US’ (Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova) political and economic spheres of influence; other develop their individual formats (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan). Recently, even the relations with Belarus have normalized.

In short, Russia’s political potential in the region is significantly inferior to the potential of the West; and in this situation Moscow has almost no resources to improve its position.

- In fact, Belarus is the only true ally of Russia in the post-Soviet space, isn’t it?

- I would put it differently: of all post-Soviet countries, Belarus is the most dependent on Russia. All other countries, even the participants of the CSTO and EAEC, pursue much more independent policy: both in cooperation with the European Union, NATO, and the United States.

- It is possible to break the vicious circle of Belarus' complete dependence on Russia?

- It is necessary for the stability of Belarus as a state, though it’s not worth to make any sudden immediate moves. In the near future, Kazakhstan’s strategy might become a specific example for Belarus: Kazakhstan remains within the sphere of influence of the Eurasian integration, but retains considerable political autonomy from Russia, developing its own relations with the EU, the US, and international organizations.

In determining Belarus’ foreign policy it should be remembered that in the post-Soviet area, Belarus is the most dependent country on Russia. Meanwhile, the EU has economic prevalence in Eastern Europe, and this asymmetry can lead to significant losses and instability of economic development in future.

Moreover, Russia's foreign policy has extremely conflicted nature in the region. To minimize negative effects and prevent Belarus’ involvement in Russian conflicts Belarus should keep distance from Russia's foreign policy as much as possible. Belarus shouldn’t restrain the development of relations with the countries Russia is in conflict with.

Belarus should develop mechanisms of individual cooperation with the EU, the US, China, and other partners that are based only on its own interests, which may be the only counterweight of dependence on a fairly narrow EAEC market, as well as compensate the fairly limited political potential of this formation.