Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Oh my soul is aching…

I don't know if I remember a moment like the one we are getting right now from the Russian oil deal. Russia's inability to try and do something for Belarus is more than just an economic debacle for the budget, it is a heart breaking social rejection that nobody thought would go out to its conclusion. Just this last week the president of Belarus was over at the Kremlin trying to talk some turkey with the president of Russia. The man was trying to plead his case that there is no reason for Belarus to have to pay the same money as Europe for its natural gas. Not only was his words not heard, the Russian press even laughed at the man saying he left with out eating his lunch.

Now, practically speaking, the Belarusian side did play games with the Russian press when they were in Belarus this last month, refusing entry to several that the government decided that they didn't like, and so of course a lot of this was simple gamesmanship on the part of the Russian side. And it is not like Lukashenka has all that much saved up with the press in general. But in the end all of this laughing rejection simply adds fuel to an already hot anti-Belarusian propaganda machine and this will only serve to make things worse.

But the real problem that I am facing with all of this, as I am sure most all internet reading Belarusians are as well, is that getting rejected by Russia really, really hurts the old soul. Almost all of the public rhetoric coming from the Belarus side over the last year concerning the creating of the Union State seems now to be the empty bleating of sheep. All year long in meetings with the CIS, with the Kazaks, the Armenians, The Ukrainians, the Azerbaijanis, etc, Lukashenka has been sitting in these meetings preaching centers of power, building a cohesive group to deal with the west's encroachment and abuse of local markets and recourses; they have talk arms buildup, they have sold weapons- they have even allowed for the Iranians to develop things that require nuclear fuel. And all of this simply to redevelop the idea that there could possibly be on the horizon something like the return of the Soviet Union, or at least a real collective collaboration with, I suppose, better results economically than the previous one.

The results of all of this talk have been twofold. Firstly, the west got a real reminder of what life back in the days when both sides kept their big bombs on standby all the time and mutual nuclear annihilation was only an insult away. Of course practically speaking- and Lukashenka has been the first to stand and remind people of this- that antagonism was exactly what the world needed to keep capitalism in check. I will be the first to say that life was better for people when America "NEEDED" to remember humanities and social re-investment. That time when there was a second system out there, an oposing argument; this was when the world was a better place to live in.

The second part as that Belarus actually started to Believe that there was a reason to tie with Russia again. This second point is actually pretty big because in general, and I quote no official sources for this thought though it is sort of general knowledge, Belarus DID NOT WANT TO MAKE A UNION WITH RUSSIA. They did not because they didn't understand why it was needed. To the Belarusian mind, if things were getting better, they were getting better because of something they themselves had done right. Perhaps this was from working a little harder, or agreeing to be a bit more disciplined or even just because they had been being better people in general. And also, it was felt that Russia was a much dirtier country than Belarus; Russia had more crime, their pensions and pay checks less secure and there were much more problems with the local Mafia, all Belarusian workers who have gone to Moscow to find work repeat this tune verbatim. Or in other words, the question was: Why should we trust the Russians? After two years of moderate prosperity, why bother with the Union State at all?

Belarus' argument for better prices on natural gas is simple. European Countries such as Germany operate on what is probably a trillion dollar budget. Paying $200 per 1000 cubic meters for gas can be done relatively painlessly because the percentage of personal income necessary to pay for the rise in cost is basically negligible. I mean, let's say that Klaus and Astrid and their two kids are getting by on his engineering salary of 27,000 euros a year. Well, if the cost of gas should go up from say 20 Euros a month to say, 30 a month, what does this really represent to him? It means that gas goes from 0.9% of his income to 1.3%. But using our house for an example, if we had to go from $10 a month for a tank of gas to $30, this would represent, and to be kind I'll use the states mean $250, a rise from 4% to 12%(!!!!!!). Can you understand this?

And what has Belarus been saying here? They have not asked for special prices, they have simply asked to pay the same prices as the Russians do for its gas. And why shouldn't they? I mean, forget abut the Union State, the two countries do speak the same language, share the same culture and do have a military alliance. And what is more importantly, the two countries do have pretty much the same per capita income and living standards and have such standards for exactly the same reasons and from the same ideologies and problems. Why shouldn't Belarus pay the same money?

This same argument has been going around all of the former Soviet States by the way. Every one of the former satellites wants to know why they have to pretend that they operate on the same economic levels as the Europeans just so the Russian can get fat. The Russian argument is that it has been losing money and that they have been carrying pitiful and parasitic countries for too long. I have another comment by the way about this by the same guy who wrote the two comments for the Russian oil blog a few days ago which basically repeats this thought over and over. (I didn't print his comment this time because he insisted on posting anonymously)

So basically all of this just makes me sick. The real point of it is that the reason that all of these countries are in the position they are in is because of their connection to the USSR and their desire to try and rebuild a union which has some sense of (or at least the memory of) togetherness in it. The west has tortured, abused and raped the former USSR for 15 years now because of this attitude. They have screamed and yelled and fought dirty with Lukashenka when all the man ever really said was that Belarus is not opposed to doing business, she just demands to be treated fairly. Empty capitulation to slave wages and service to Euro trash was not to the countries liking and 83% agreed to that. A poll taken on the anniversary of the end of the USSR also showed that better than half of the people would like to return to such a union. If Russia believes that the will of more than half its people should be ignored for the last few rubles of a finite and ecologically unsound resource I say this is an affront. I say let's ride bikes. I say that Belarus never really wanted the Union and would prefer to work out its problems for itself. I say that Belarus will come through this with or without the Russian's deal.

But in any case, this news just makes me sick. To me and to a lot of people this gas deal stinks like the other two economic debicles Russia has been responsible for in 1991 and in 1997. All of this is just more lousy news for the locals who have suffered far more than any humans should ever have been made to suffer. And believe me, the suffering has nothing to do with human rights, it has to do with being tortured for trying to remain socialist (and social). And if you happen to be someone who feels happy over this, I think it is high time you had a good look at yourself in the mirror.