Leonid Zlotnikov: Days of Lukashenko's independence are numbered
"Belarus is used as bait. Neither Kazakhstan, nor Belarus especially give no weight to the Customs Union. But, if Ukraine joined the Customs Union - this formation would gain the weight at once".
That's how in the interview to UDF.BY economist Leonid Zlotnikov assessed the results of negotiations between the Presidents of Russia Vladimir Putin and Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych, which were held on July 12 in Yalta.
Only because of the reduction in energy prices while joining the Customs Union Belarus added 16% to its GDP, Putin told his Ukrainian counterpart:
"I cited (an example) to our colleagues: our calculations show that Belarus, only due to lower energy prices while joining the Customs Union in its creation time, got plus 16% of GDP. I want to say to you that it’s not only a bonus, the lowering of energy prices, it is a kind of a common decision in the context of other economical questions. There are other winnings of purely systemic character", the Kremlin press service quoted Putin.
UDF.BY expert believes that Putin didn't exaggerate the economic assistance which Russia gives Belarus.
"If you looked at the situation from 2003 to the present day, it would be so. Belarus received the maximum amount of subsidies in 2006 - it amounted to 20% of GDP. Economist Elena Rakova meticulously counted the subsidies; she counted that in six years (2003-2009) subsidies to Belarus amounted to 38 or 40 billion dollars.
And when Putin a few years ago said, the subsidies amounted to 50 billion dollars - this is also true.
It all started with the end of 1995, when the Customs Union was established. In the spring of 1996 Russia wrote off 1.4 billion dollars of debts.
All the time there were subsidies. Not only in the form of cheap energy prices. When the were barter settlements, Russia took the Belarusian goods at inflated prices, and this is also a form of subsidy. So Putin is right when he refers to that amount.
- So, there is no need even to ask a question of economic independence?
- What kind of economic independence? Economic independence is possible when the country is living within its means, and not in debts as in silks. But Lukashenko saved the socialism, his "empire", so to speak. The days of this independence are numbered.
- And why Putin chose Belarus as an example, but not Kazakhstan, which is also the member of Customs Union?
- Perhaps, he hinted at: if Ukraine was flexible, if joined the Customs Union - also would have benefits.
The main interest of Putin - to lure Ukraine to the Customs Union. Neither Kazakhstan, nor Belarus especially give no weight to the Customs Union. But, if Ukraine joined the Customs Union - this formation would gain the weight at once. And Belarus is just used as bait.