Wednesday, February 7, 2007

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So how's it going in Belarus?

The Temporary Turkmenbashi of the Blogosphere commands all who revere him to look in the direction of Belarus. When we last left things, Russia was putting the screws on the Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko.

According to Lukashenko's interview with Reuters, the screws really hurt -- but he has a plan:

Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko, stung by big rises in Russian energy prices, vowed on Tuesday to recover $5 billion in losses by making Moscow pay for vital transit traffic and military cooperation.

But despite disappointment over Moscow's price rises and its foreign policy, Lukashenko said close ties with Russia remained the cornerstone of his isolated administration's policy.

The two former Soviet neighbors have long enjoyed warm relations and were negotiating a union with a common currency.

But Russian President Vladimir Putin's sudden doubling of gas prices and cut in oil subsidies at the end of last year threatened a vital prop for the Belarussian economy and prompted Minsk to strike back.

"Now that the Russian president has mentioned a transition to market relations ... we will in return ask Russia to pay in hard currency for services that Russia used to benefit from free of charge," Lukashenko told Reuters in a rare interview at the presidential offices.

The president was speaking the day after Belarus announced big rises in the amounts it charges Russia for the transit of oil across its territory to supply markets in western Europe..

Read the whole thing to get a sense of Lukashenko's foreign policy bind. He's not going to befriend the West anytime soon (and vice versa). This gives Russia something close to carte blanche to put the screws on its smaller, politically isolated neighbor.

It's worth keeping this fact in mind when reading about Belarus' recently announced intentions to build its first nuclear reactors.

posted by Dan on 02.07.07 at 05:58 PM


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