Belarusian president hits high spots of Asia

On March 18th – 21st, Aliaksandr Lukashenka made official visits to Indonesia and Singapore. On March 22nd he visited the United Arab Emirates.

Lukashenka’s extended tour around South-East Asia and the Middle East is a forced reaction to the unfavorable outcome in the Russo-Belarusian negotiations. Belarus seeks to strengthen its foreign policy “alibi” by demonstrating to Russia other buyers’ interest in Belarusian assets, ‘Solidarity with Belarus’ Information Office reports.

The logic behind Lukashenka’s visit to Indonesia and Singapore coincides with the logic of Serbian President Nikolic’s “spontaneous” visit to Minsk on March 12th – 13th. The Belarusian president aims at expanding the narrowed range of his international contacts. The unfavourable outcome of the talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on March 15th in St. Petersburg, forced Lukashenka to continue strengthening his foreign policy “alibi” in negotiations with the Kremlin.

Lukashenka decided to visit remote countries, rather than to use the opportunity to benefit from the Foreign Ministry’s efforts regarding the resumption of a dialogue with the Belarus’ nearest neighbor – the EU. This behavior should be regarded as a demonstration of the apparent sovereignity of Belarus’ foreign policy.

Belarus’ trade with Indonesia (and Serbia) is low – USD 200 million, and with Singapore is even less – about USD 27 million. Lukashenka’s proposal to Indonesian President Yudhoyono to use Belarus as a trading “gateway” to the Customs Union should also be regarded as a rhetorical move, a fairly typical PR-campaign by the Belarusian authorities. Due to Russia’s tough stance, such offers as a rule do not develop successfully.

Finally, the visit’s main purpose was to demonstrate to Russia that Belarus could potentially find alternative buyers for its assets, SBIO experts stress. Russo-Belarusian negotiations are entering their decisive phase (privatization lists have been agreed at the government level, annual oil supplies volumes have not been signed off and Belarus’ oil supplies have been monopolized by a number of Russian companies), therefore Lukashenka had to counteract and show his independence. While in Singapore, he openly stated that he “is ready to consider any proposals vis-à-vis shares in the largest Belarusian companies”.

Objectively speaking, Belarus’ foreign policy enhancement would have a positive effect on trade and the country’s economic capacity, because Belarus’ political system suggests that active operations in foreign markets are only possible with the president’s approval. Unofficial reports say, that in Indonesia some promising contracts worth USD 400 million were signed off (mostly relating to fertilizers’ trade and agriculture).

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