Russia-Belarus Relations Go Nowhere

MOSCOW - Both Presidents arrived at their meeting armed with lists of unfulfilled promises. but the latest meeting between Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Belarussian leader Alexander Lukashenko yielded no tangible results.

Economic factors prevail in Minsk's complaints - Belarus has yet to receive the promised 2nd tranche of Russia's $1 billion loan. Lukashenko is rejecting Moscow's demand to honor his country's debt for natural gas supplies. He claims Medvedev's had promised to retain low-priced gas deliveries.

As for Moscow, the Kremlin is unhappy over Minsk's failure to recognize the independence of the Georgian breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia - in violation of Lukashenko's pledges - and his unwillingness to sign the agreement on establishing a joint rapid-deployment task force in the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organization - also, contrary to his promises.

Medvedev's foreign policy aide Sergei Prikhodko said of the meeting, "It was an open and substantial discussion." For those acquainted with diplospeak, this word combination unequivocally means the talks collapsed. The sides reached no agreements on the existing thorny issues, and it looks like many problems were not even raised owing to fundamental differences.

At the same time, it would be premature to speak of a total breach in the Moscow-Minsk relations. Russia and Belarus are tied by many political, economic and military commitments. For example, irrespective of all the factors impacting their bilateral relations, in late September Belarus is hosting the two nations' large-scale military exercises dubbed West-2009 with a clearly anti-NATO thrust. In any event, Belarus' significant dependence on Russia would contain Lukashenko's tentative drift toward the West.



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