Updated at 11:50,16-10-2017

Minsk to continue balancing act after Kyivs ratification of association agreement with EU

By Andrey Fyodaraw, BelaPAN

Ukraine's Verkhovna Rada and the European Parliament on September 16 ratified an association agreement between Ukraine and the European Union (EU). Minsk is unlikely to continue its balancing act between Russia and Ukraine after the ratification.

Hard road to the West

The Rada declared Ukraines membership of the EU as the ultimate goal of the countrys European integration effort.

Earlier, Kyiv, Moscow and Brussels agreed that Ukraine will continue to levy duties on imports from the EU until the end of 2015, while the EU will not charge duties on Ukrainian imports.

Moscow threatened to take protectionist measures if the deal is not is not respected.

On the surface, it may seem that Ukraine has returned to the point it was before the 2013 Vilnius Eastern Partnership Summit, at which former President Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign the accord under pressure from Moscow. The move triggered protests that swept Yanukovych from power.

Some may ask whether protests, riots, separatism in eastern Ukraine and huge economic losses could be avoided if Yanukovych had signed the agreement in Vilnius.


Showdown with Kremlin

One way or another, Ukraine is currently in an absolutely different state than in November 2013.

Most importantly, the international community has seen the true colors of the Russian leadership ready to defy international treaties for achieving its goals.

Washington and Brussels are unlikely to accept that behavior and will do their best to limit cooperation with Russia in all areas.

Russia may find itself in international isolation if it refuses to play by the rules.


Minsk seems hesitant

Minsk will be more cautious in its dealings with Moscow for fear that close integration can lead to the incorporation of Belarus into Russia.

If Russias isolation deepens, Belarus may find it more difficult to survive as an independent country. On the other hand, unable to tame its imperial ambitions, Moscow is unlikely to abide by international laws.

In the foreseeable future, Belarusian officials will continue to perform a balancing act between Russia, Ukraine and the West, trying to make as few concessions as possible.

Relations with Moscow remain relatively good since the Russian government recently approved a $1.5 billion loan to Minsk.

Belarus also seeks close ties with Ukraine. In a recent development, Minsk offered its assistance to Kyiv in persuading the Customs Union to lift its meat and dairy import ban in return for increased meat and dairy exports from Belarus to Ukraine.

Minsk also has been making diplomatic efforts to improve ties with the EU.

In general, Minsks policies will depend on major players, the Kremlin in the first place.