It is the Russian Federation that benefits from the Commonwealth of Independent States the most. On Wednesday Belarus president Alyaksandr Lukashenka once again slammed the ineffectiveness of the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly.
At the session of the CIS Council of Heads of State in Sochi, he called for reforming or even closing the body down. Perhaps, it was the most dramatic moment of the summit which looked promising for Vladimir Putin.
“The present-day CIS is a symbolic and formal establishment,” says political analyst Andrey Yahorau.
The Belarusian delegation’s meetings with the representatives of Azerbaijan draw special attention. They were preceded by the visit of Azerbaijan’s parliamentary delegation to Minsk. The Sochi talks were held at the parliamentary level; later, Alyaksandr Lukashenka met with the country’s Defense Minister Zakir Gasanov.
The agreement on military cooperation between the countries has been in effect since 2008. Officially, Azerbaijan purchased military equipment amounting to $167 mln from Belarus. The sides also signed political and trade agreements. During last year’s visit to Baku, Lukashenka announced his intention to increase bilateral trade to $700 mln in 2017.
“On the one hand, it is authoritarian solidarity, on the other hand, it is a hope for economic cooperation with Azerbaijan, which is quite a prosperous country, and Belarus expects to receive certain economic benefits from the cooperation with them,” Yahorau stresses.
Ilham Aliyev’s help allowed Belarus to pay its debt to Russia’s Gazprom. Moreover, the Azerbaijani President lobbies Minsk’s interests in the West. And it is not ruled out that this factor came into play when Lukashenka was invited to the upcoming EaP summit in Brussels. But it is still not a cause for the Kremlin’s concern. Although last year Belarus-Russia trade turnover was down by 5.2%, the total amount exceeded $26.1 bn.
“The debt which was to be pay this year, will be paid next year. No other country would grant such a behefit to us. Russia is well aware of our dependence on energy resources. We tried to arrange supplies from Azerbaijan and Venezuela, but it is more expensive,” said economist Leanid Zlotnikau.
Last year, Belarus took the lead in direct investments from the CIS. But $8.52 out of $8.64 bn came from Russia. These figures nullify Lukashenka’s strong statements and demonstration of independence in Sochi.