Journalist Arkady Shraybman, a journalist at the Carnegie Moscow Center, wrote about how the pandemic, first giving rise to mutual claims between Moscow and Minsk, slowed down the solution to the pressing problems that confronted them.
The expert recalls that Russia and Belarus have not deepened the integration process in recent times, instead of starting an oil war. True, the pandemic, which exacerbated the fall in oil prices, finally allowed the parties to agree among themselves, but only because now this dispute looks insignificant against the backdrop of the global crisis.
The fact that Russia closed the border with Belarus without any warning and discussion did not improve relations, which greatly impeded the return of Belarusians from abroad. The Belarusian embassy even had to transport its citizens from one Moscow airport to another so that they could fly to Minsk while it was possible. It’s clear that Lukashenko didn’t like this, who criticized the salivary Russia, mentioning that the epidemic situation is much worse there. In response, Russian propaganda did not fail to ridicule both Belarusian measures to combat the coronavirus and Lukashenko himself.
Meanwhile, no quarantine has been introduced in Belarus so far, mass events have not been canceled, the football championship continues as if nothing had happened, and the president himself gives advice on how to treat the disease with folk remedies.
Minsk is also frightened by the fact that in the Russian social networks the advice to the Kremlin “to save the fraternal people from death” appears every now and then. Belarusians do not remain in debt and make fun of Russia for queues in the subway and the death of business. All this cancels the mutual assistance of countries in the fight against infection. It even comes to the fact that in response to Lukashenko’s completely justified criticism about poor-quality Russian tests, the brisk State Duma deputy Onishchenko began to instruct him to better teach Belarusian peasants to plow and sow.
But instead of Russian, Minsk now receives Chinese and Uzbek help, and also asks for money from world and European banks, without even contacting Moscow. All this clearly testifies to the fact that there can be no talk of any improvement in relations. Even the Victory Parade, which could contribute to this, has been canceled.
Moreover, Minsk will now dispute Russian gas prices, which have dropped significantly for Europe, despite the fact that the contract has long been signed, and Gazprom is unlikely to meet the current situation. Here, Belarus must either reconcile itself or begin to underpay Gazprom’s subsidiaries in the country, threatening its infrastructure.
In this regard, one should not forget that in a year the lease term for Russian military facilities in Belarus - the communications center of the Navy Vileyka and the Volga radar station - is ending and negotiations should be started on the extension. Given the fact that Lukashenko begins his campaign in the summer, he will be able to use this problem to solve the gas problem.
All this creates an atmosphere of strategic uncertainty in relations between countries engaged in the struggle against the internal enemy - an epidemic, and not disputes with each other. And it is not yet clear when the old forms of the search for consensus will be replaced by new ones, whether the allies will agree again, or finally disperse, each in its own direction.