Minsk Dialogue experts: The conflict between Belarus and Russia is reaching a dangerous line

Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenka

Relations with Russia have not gained a “new normality” and have been deteriorating for six months now,  experts of the Council on Foreign Relations “Minsk Dialog” write in the new issue of “Minsk Barometer”, a monthly research of political events in Belarus . Of the whole range of problematic issues, a compromise, however, temporary and unreliable, was found only on oil supplies in March-April this year, “Barometer” noted. There has been no progress on the visa issue, integration road maps or mobile phones’s roaming in the Union State.

“The negative dynamics, which had already been observed before, has been preserved,”  Denis Meliantsov,  an expert of  “Minsk Dialogue” noted during the online presentation of the monitoring. “This is due to a complex crisis in bilateral relations, in which we have now repeated the record of the same period last year, when there were problems with the Russian ambassador, with oil and gas, and the value reached a record minus 9, which indicates that the relationship is very tense, many problems. Our experts in this monitoring conclude that the relationship continues to deteriorate”.

COVID-19 only contributes to exacerbating the conflict.

“Since the two countries have different policies in the fight against the pandemic, it brings some tension” Denis Meliantsov said.

Due to the choice of quarantine as an important element of antiepidemic policy, Russia has closed its border with Belarus and attempts to provide humanitarian assistance or cooperation in combating the epidemic have failed.

“The tone of statements about the policy of the ally, both on the part of the press and officials, is becoming increasingly harsh. Information support for the anti epidemic policy, chosen by Belarus, is based on allegations of stupidity, medical helplessness and even malice of all the governments that have chosen other ways, including Russia,”  the experts said.

In their opinion, the main arguments of information support in favor of the Belarusian version of the response would be very sensitive to the Russian leadership, even if they were not specific. “But both President Lukashenko and the Ministry of Health address these arguments to the Russian leadership,”  the authors of  “Barometer” emphasize

These charges are very irritating to Russia.

“Belarusian masses are Russian-speaking, while the information space of Belarus and Russia is largely common, i.e. the arguments of the Belarusian leadership reach the Russians quickly and almost in full,” explain the experts.- In a crisis situation (and Russia is experiencing three crises at the same time: a general epidemiological one, an economic one due to the reduction of oil prices and sanctions, as well as a political one due to the suspension of constitutional amendments at the very culmination of the process), the Russian elites feel particularly vulnerable. In addition, this rhetoric coincides with that of some anti-Kremlin forces in Russia itself and reinforces them.

The tone of the Russian media regarding the Belarusian antiepidemic policy is indicative of the fact that the Belarusian informational impact is considered serious, consider Belarusian political analysts. And the decision to hold a Victory Parade in Minsk on May 9, against the fact that Moscow postponed it, adds emotions to the conflict between the countries, caused by the opposite responses to the epidemic.

“The conflict in the Belarusian-Russian relations has acquired a protracted character, which allows expecting further growth of tension, especially against the background of preparation for constitutional reforms both in Russia and Belarus. It is unlikely that the issues of natural gas prices and restructuring of the Belarus Nuclear Plant construction loan will be resolved in the next two months,” experts say.

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