The other day on our site was published translation of the article "What the West is wrong about Belarus?" International Editor Economist Edward Lucas. This text is concerned spawned debate on our site.
We invited experts from around the world to take part in this debate and express their opinions about how an article by Mr. Lucas, as well as about the problem, which he formulates.
Margarita Balmaseda, a professor of Helsinki University and Harvard University, an expert on energy policy and corruption in the post-
In its first response to the comment by Lucas Belarus, I actually agreed with many of his assertions. Western politicians are really confused and do not know what to do with Belarus.
But the comment that criticizes simplistic and "placed on shelves" views on the policy of the West of Belarus, would benefit if taken into account the slightly more nuanced. Comment really makes a vivid impression, but often does not look at the root issues.
I agree with the author that the assessment of Lukashenko as a "loyal satrap of the Kremlin" was a gross oversimplification. Generally, Western analysts have ignored the obvious tension in Belarusian-Russian relations before the first termination of gas supplies to Belarus by "Gazprom" in February 2004. But not all did so, and those of us who have studied the details of energy relations — especially Lukashenko reluctance to share control of the lucrative oil refining sector with the Russian players — realized in 1999 than it can turn around.
Thus, the expectations of many politicians in the West, that access to free media in Belarus persuade the Belarusian citizens to revolt against the regime, not paid off. But the reasons for this were much more complex than those presented by a comment. Serious scientists, both in Belarus and abroad, have done extensive research on the causes of political stability (and the relative degree of support for Lukashenko) in Belarus. In an effort to understand the causes of political longevity Lukashenko, the researchers focused their attention on such causes as the use of preventive soft (Balmaseda) or severe repression and social control (Silitski), ideological control (Leshenko), control of the nomenclature through intimidation and repression, the contents of the citizens in the economic Depending on the state, the charisma and the use of Lukashenko's populist and demagogic tactics in direct contact with the electorate (Karastyleva), the weakness of the democratic opposition, lack of nationalism as a powerful social and political force that is able to mobilize opposition (Eke and Kuze), relatively strong state "system of effective accounting and control from the top down "(Fritz), economic support of Moscow (Balmaseda, etc.)., populist economic policy of the regime and the execution of a paternalistic social contract between the state of Soviet times and the people, who continued to be in demand of the Belarusian public (Karbalevich, Haiduk). (Haiduk et al. Said the social contract as a continuation of Lukashenka "Masherov" public contract, when the country experienced an unprecedented growth in urbanization and living standards.) It is likely that the source of the Belarusian stability was a combination of these factors, and that this combination could evolve throughout during the rule of Lukashenko, from a situation in which the most important factor was the personal charisma Lukashenko, to a situation in which the great role played by the public vision of their economic interests in the short and medium term. It is important to note here that with this combination of deep-seated reasons, it is unrealistic to expect that any one initiative, such as the support of the free broadcasting could quickly change the situation.
In the context of this broad topic (how the West can have a positive impact on the situation in Belarus) is a number of smaller issues. First, we can not say that the West is clearly welcomed the election of Alexander Lukashenko in 1994. In any case, many of the dashed hopes of the West, which the author discusses in the first half of the comments were not unique only hope for Belarus, but they are also concerned Russia and (mostly) of Ukraine. Characteristics of the opposition as a "motley hodgepodge of idealists, those who had once been someone, who no one ever was, political turncoats, nationalist extremists and eccentrics" is a gross oversimplification. Surprised me, too, the author's argument, where he mentions the explosion Minsk metro and says "that we have no idea who is behind the explosion, and that he therefore can be considered as evidence of the West's failure to analyze the situation in Belarus and act on it." In any case, it's not for the "Western analysts, "but for the Belarusian security service.
As regards the proposal of Mr. Lucas to open Belarus and Belarusians through further interaction and impact of free trade, it is in principle a good idea. I only wish that she, too, did not work, when the European Union has consistently adhered to this policy in 2008-2010. Here we should pay attention to several factors.
The first problem with the promotion of interaction associated with a simplified view of the trade in Belarus. Indeed, to call on the Belarusian trade diversion EU "success" — is to simplify the problem. Indeed, since the mid-2000s the share of Belarusian exports to the EU begins to rise significantly: as a result the EU has replaced Russia as the main importer of Belarusian goods. (In 1999, 49.6% of Belarus' exports went to Russia in early 2009, this figure fell to 37% over the same period the total value of exports to the EU increased significantly, reaching 47.3% in 2007 and 44% in 2009.) But we have to keep in mind that a significant increase in exports to the EU has been associated with an increase in exports of petroleum products, and thus, was a direct result of the special trade relations between Belarus and Russia. Most importantly, this new trade balance reflects not only the growth in demand from Western Europe, but also the decline in demand in Russia for traditional products of Belarusian exports, such as tractors, engines and television sets, which clearly indicated the imminent collapse of Belarus' competitiveness in many sectors . At the same time, Belarus remains heavily dependent on imports from Russia — Russia's participation in the structure of imports of Belarus has remained virtually unchanged at 60%.
The second problem is related to the actual state of the interaction with the EU. The country that most closely advocated cooperation with Belarus in recent years, Germany (remember the joint visit to Minsk, German and Polish foreign ministers in November 2010), was after December 19 attack on the forefront of President Alexander Lukashenko. The Belarusian president was unpredictable partner, not only for the West, but also for Russia. This greatly complicates the situation for those seeking to promote change in Belarus through positive engagement.