Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 143

Belarus president Aleksandr Lukashenko yesterday complained to a gathering of economic managers that Russia has been behaving "extremely incorrectly over the last year and a half" by failing to implement bilateral economic agreements and the CIS customs union treaty. According to Lukashenko, Moscow is "grossly violating" those understandings by erecting tariff barriers and causing his country’s trade deficit to grow. Moreover, Lukashenko said, Moscow is declining to carry out the Yeltsin-Lukashenko "zero option" agreement signed last February, which writes off Belarus debts to Russia in exchange for rent-free Russian use of Belarus military installations and free westbound transit of Russian fuels and other exports via Belarus.

Lukashenko and his Prime Minister, Mikhail Chyhir, warned that Belarus is prepared to "react commensurably" by imposing duties and taxes on Russian products. Lukashenko also commented that Moscow’s actions were "destroying the balanced relationship" stipulated by the Russia-Belarus Community treaty signed last April. (NTV, Interfax, July 22)

The complaints are not Lukashenko’s first but are the most vehement to date. His quest for a merger with Russia has not made him servile, and his political usefulness to the Kremlin has if anything increased his confidence and sense of entitlement to Russian economic rewards. The ultimate source of his disappointment lies with Russian protectionist interests which often work at cross purposes with Russian political policies toward CIS states.

Tajik Sides Agree to Exchange Prisoners Despite Ceasefire Breach.