The ‘indissoluble’ Union of Belarus and Russia has shown its true colours. When oil price reached $120 per barrel Russia was a generous sponsor that granted loans, subsidies, cheap gas and oil. But when oil prices collapse to $60, Russia turns into a state that imposes an embargo on Belarusian meat and seals borders for Belarusian cargo carriers.
Russia, whose crisis was partly triggered by EU sanctions and its own antisanctions, may draw consolation from the fact that ‘Crimea is Ours’ [Krym Nash], although 99,9% of its population can do it only remotely. But what should the Belarusians, who are paying in excess for Russia’s Crimea and Donbas when facing shortage of foreign currency and economic insecurity on New Year’s Eve, do?
Aliaksandr Lukashenka has realised that the stock of money the Kremlin is able to share with him is drying up and that it is highly likely that there will be scarcely any money left for Belarus after Russia pays off for Crimea and Donbas. But as the funds are to coughed up for pre-election bread for the vote Belarus started making courtesies to Ukraine: “We are always ready to fulfil any request of yours”. Suddenly the Belarusian president changed into a good cop and behaves himself with Ukraine, which, as he expects, should be awarded by the USA and the EU. Moreover, when compared to Mr Putin, Europe’s last dictator seems to be on the right side of the common sense.
But in fact, Lukashenka has only one way to overcome the crisis in Belarus and he exposed it to public when piping down ‘alarmist’ mass media. Tomorrow those who will be airing discontent with the situation in the country might be arrested. It was no coincidence that the 2010 post-election mayhem had taken place some months before an internationally abnormal devaluation of the Belarusian rubel. President Lukashenka, who used to strike his subordinates in the face in his kolkhoz chairman’s days, pushed in the face of the whole nation just to forestall unrest.
Belarus will definitely pay a very concrete price for Russia’s ‘Crimea is Ours’, i.e. both economic crisis and expanding crackdown.