Books on Belarus
Principal ethnic groups
Update No: 309 - (26/09/06)
The co-fellowship of pariahs
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenka knows perfectly well that he is a
Pariahs seek out fellow pariahs. He is great pals with Castro and Chavez. He is
now making chums with the greatest pariahs of all, the mullahs of Tehran, cast
as such by their common enemy in Washington.
The enemy of my enemy is my friend. What a better moment to befriend Tehran,
beset by accusations of developing nuclear weapons, than now. One thing that the
Belarus dictator knows - they are not going to be dropping their nuclear weapons
Lukashenka Wants Closer Ties With Iran
He said on September 7th Iran was a significant source of support for his
country outside of the former Soviet republics, RIA Novosti news agency reports.
Iran has been at the centre of an international dispute over the past year
regarding its nuclear ambitions. Some countries suspect the Islamic Republic of
pursuing a covert nuclear weapons programme, but Tehran has consistently denied
the claims, saying it needs nuclear energy for civilian purposes.
Lukashenka's domestic policies have also come under severe criticism from the
West, with Washington dubbing him "Europe's last dictator," and both
the U.S. and the EU banning him from entering their territories. He has
responded by entering the names of their top officials in a little black book,
banning them from going to Belarus!
"[Belarusian] foreign policy has developed good relations with our
neighbours, but we need to form an outside arc of good cooperation with such
important states as Venezuela, South Africa, Iran and Malaysia," Lukashenka
said at a meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, who was in
Belarus on a two-day official visit. "We consider Iran as a serious point
of support abroad, and we want to actively develop relations with it,"
The president also asked the Iranian minister to work out with his Belarusian
counterpart issues for the presidents on the intensification of bilateral
Mottaki replied that the foreign ministers of the two countries have a very
simple task, since the positions of the Belarusian and Iranian presidents are
the same and are aimed at developing bilateral relations.
"The efforts of such powerful countries as Belarus in Europe and Iran in
the Middle East can bring peace to these regions," Mottaki said.
The Belarusian Foreign Ministry said Iran is studying ways to implement a number
of major investment projects in Belarus. In particular, one of Iran's largest
construction companies is interested in building hotels and residential
buildings, as well as to form a transportation terminal in Belarus.
A new relationship with Beijing
Lukashenka met visiting Chinese Defence Minister, Cao Gangchuan, on
September 13th to discuss bilateral relations and issues of common concern. He
was not meeting with a pariah here; China is too big for that. He was meeting
with a new, burgeoning superpower. They have one thing in common. They dislike
the US's apparently unquestionable dominance of world affairs.
When meeting with Cao in the presidential office building in the Belarussian
capital of Minsk, Lukashenka said relations between Belarus and China had
enjoyed smooth growth, made great achievements in recent years and had entered a
new era of all-round development and strategic cooperation.
Belarus and China had many common interests and great potential for further
cooperation, Lukashenka said, adding that his country stood ready to work with
China to boost ties between the two armies of both nations.
Lukashenka reaffirmed the Belarussian government's adherence to the one-China
Cao, for his part, said bilateral relations had witnessed healthy and steady
growth since China and Belarus established diplomatic ties 14 years ago. The two
countries have offered each other political trust and support, cooperated for
common growth in economic ties, carried out extensive exchanges in various
fields and coordinated closely in international and regional affairs, he said.
The Chinese defence chief pledged China's efforts to work with Belarus to boost
bilateral military ties.
There is one power with whom Belarus is not a pariah, Russia. For several years
now it has supposedly been in a growing union with it, but despite numerous
initiatives and proclamations, little ever comes of it.
The telling thing is that the formation of a common currency is constantly being
postponed, the economic experts in Moscow always advising strongly against.
After all why should Russia bale out the basket case of the Belarus economy,
which is what would be involved?
Still this union does have a formal existence, with common institutions, a
politburo, even a parliamentary assembly with 75 Russian members and 28 Belarus
ones, and a general secretariat of the Union State of Russia and Belarus.
The general secretary (how resonant a title) is none other than Pavel Borodin,a
relict of the Soviet Kremlin where he was 'Mr Fixit' for Soviet leaders and more
recenlty the former mentor of Putin in his days as Yeltsin's right hand man in
all financial and business dealings in the Kremlin. He is wanted by Swiss and US
authorities for bail-jumping and various malfeasances, too numerous and opaque
to relate here, (his Google listing is informative). He may be persona non grata
in the West, but he is just the man to be trusted in Moscow, showing undying
loyalty in exchange for being protected from his many enemies.
Here is an intriguing exchange from last year, whose main prediction has yet to
be realized, but expressing an idea that Putin may still be toying with. Putin,
like Yeltsin before him, plays along with Lukashenka's fancies, never quite sure
when he might not turn out to be useful, although heeding the advice to keep his
distance. He once said of him: "He may be a scoundrel; but he is our
scoundrel." The same could be said of Borodin.
Head of Russia-Belarus Union says Putin will become its president in 2006
Excerpt from report by Russian external TV service NTV Mir on 22 June, 2005
[Presenter] New unions are being built in Moscow today, and existing ones are
being shored up: leaders of the member countries of the Eurasian Economic
Community [EAEC] met in the Grand Kremlin Palace. The EAEC includes Russia,
Belorussia [Belarus], Kazakstan, Kirgizia [Kyrgyzstan], Tajikistan and also
Armenia - as an observer. No major political decisions are expected from this
meeting. Experts say it is a response of sorts to alternative meetings of
[other] former Soviet republics within the framework of GUAM [Georgia, Ukraine,
Azerbaijan and Moldova]. Vladimir Kondratyev reports.
[Correspondent] Belarusian President Lukashenka will be at the helm of the EAEC
for the next year: [Kazak President Nursultan] Nazarbayev has passed on this
heavy burden. Lukashenka, however, is facing a more important task: to make sure
he achieves union with Russia on his own terms.
[Pavel Borodin, state secretary of the Union of Russia and Belarus] We are a bit
short of political will.
[Correspondent] What should it consist of?
[Borodin] It should be like it was before; convene the Politburo and say: we are
holding a referendum in November; in January-February, elections to the
parliamentary assembly of the Union State; and in the autumn of next year, elect
president and vice-president.
[Correspondent] Who will be president then?
[Borodin] Well, you know-
[Correspondent] I mean, what does the constitution say?
[Borodin] Don't prompt me with the answer! Of course it will be Putin because-
Of course Putin, and Lukashenka [will be] vice-president.
[Correspondent] Does Lukashenka agree to this?
[Borodin] You know, even if he is loath to, he will still agree.
[Correspondent] The Belarusian delegation reacted sceptically to this statement.
The Belarusian blueprint is presumably different.
Actually the dictator of Minsk still harbours the fantasy that he could rule
Russia one day via the guise of heading the union state. As Sir Lewis Namier,
the British historian, said of Ribbentrop, he is a 'sinister clown.'
GDP up 10.1% in January-July
Belarussian GDP increased 10.1 per cent year-on-year to 41.06 trillion
Belarussian roubles in January-July 2006, a source in the Statistics and
Analysis Ministry said recently, Interfax News Agency reported.
According to the ministry, in the first seven months of this year industrial
production increased 12.7 per cent to 42.32 trillion Belarussian roubles,
production of consumer goods increased 10.9 per cent to 9.15 trillion roubles,
with production of food stuffs up 13.2 per cent to 4.61 trillion roubles, and
non-food stuffs nine per cent to 3.95 Belarussian roubles. Investment in fixed
capital increased 36.1 per cent in the reporting period to 8.91 trillion
Belarussian roubles. A total of 2.227 million square metres of housing was
built, from all sources of financing, up 15.4 per cent year-on-year. A total of
62,300 people were registered as employees in the civil service in the reporting
period, down 14.8 per cent year-on-year. Unemployment amounted to 1.4 per cent
of the economically active population. According to the ministry, in Belarus
consumer prices increased 0.5 per cent in July 2006, after an increase of 0.2
per cent in June. In July this year prices were up 6.7 per cent year-on-year.
Iranian foreign minister invites Lukashenka to visit Iran
Belarussian President, Alexander Lukashenka, has received an invitation to visit
Iran, Iranian Foreign Minister, Manuchehr Motaki, told reporters on September
7th. Preparations for the visit will be discussed during an upcoming meeting
between Lukashenka and Iranian President, Mahmud Ahmadinejad, at a Non-Aligned
Movement summit in Havana, New Europe reported.
Belarussian Foreign Minister, Sergei Martynov, has also been invited to Iran for
an official visit. "We agreed to set up a bilateral cooperation committee
within the foreign ministries' framework," Motaki said, commenting on the
results of his talks with Martynov in Minsk. The sides are planning to step up
economic cooperation and boost mutual trade to US$0.5 billion in the near
future, he said. "Our leaders are determined to intensify political,
economic and cultural cooperation. I am sure we can improve our trade in the
nearest future," the Iranian minister said.
MINERALS & METALS
Steel plant plans exports to Central Africa, Singapore
Belarussian Metals Plant (BMZ) plans to start exporting steel cord and hardware
to Central Africa and Singapore this year, the company said, Interfax News
Representatives of BMZ and Belarussian ministries discussed exports at a meeting
recently. BMZ said it was exporting products to 60 countries at present and that
it had extensive trade infrastructure. BMZ has formed joint ventures to promote
sales of its products to Germany, Austria, the United States and China. It has
four offices in Russia and one in Latvia. BMZ is now looking to the Central
African market. "BMZ exports to nearly all North African countries and to
South Africa, but it also aims to cover the Central region of the African
continent," the BMZ source said, adding that the plant planned to form a
joint venture in one of that region's countries. In addition BMZ plans in
September to negotiate shipments to Singapore and in the middle of October to
hold talks about shipping its first major consignments of metal to Brazil. BMZ
raised exports 12.9 per cent year-on-year in January-July to US$549.9 million.
Exports account for 85 per cent of sales. BMZ, from Zhlobin in the Gomel region,
is Belarus's biggest steel mill.