Monday, July 16, 2007

About that isolation business…

The Beatroot: Lukashenko really has no friends left at all
Spoke with Pete Beatroot over the internet yesterday. Pete manages the Beatroot blog, one of the better blogs on the net in general, but it is even better for taking a jaundiced look at Poland, a country greatly deserving of some yellow press. Pete wrote me in response to my query over Lukashenka's telling America that he would close down any opposition NGO who got caught receiving American money.

Pete's response was direct and to the point that Belarus was an unwanted pariah country with no friends- basically, the popular European line on the subject:

    Lukashenko appears to be trying to get Moscow back on side after they put the price of oil up. He knows that without Putin the Belarusian economy is in ruins. So the missile shield is one way he can show that he is with Putin against the US. The row over the shield in Poland is one way he can show he is loyal and hopes Putin will reward him with better oil deals. Lukashenko really has no friends left at all except Chavez.
I don't know that I agreed with the comment and this last sentence about how many friends Belarus has got me thinking.

I knew that I have seen quite a few names go by of countries which are doing business with Belarus and the number, though not everyone out of the 185 we have, seemed to be at least more than 20 or 30. Off the top of my head, Iran really likes Belarus and they like Chavez as well. This is not hard to figure though because of that 'second axis of power' thing and that Chavez has more money than G-d right now.

But I don't think there is a better oil/gaz deal to be had. If anything, to my eyes it saeems as though Belarus is slowly preparing for an absorption by Russia. They can call it a union and leave Belarus on the map, but the day they start using the Russian Ruble, we are Russia. I think that for all his talk of sovereignty, Lukashenko might really have it in his head that this is really the only way. And that he might be able to be president there in a decade or so. And why not? A friend told me that people in his family were receiving $1500 and 2000 a month in Russia already and a guy on my blog told me a cup of coffee in Moscow was $6.75. If anything, this quote telling Bush to piss off and the sister quote saying Belarus wants normal relations with Europe without having to be told what to do (having them dictate policy) it just echoing Russian policy. Belarus is not a dog; they are just a poor cousin waiting patiently to be invited into the family business.

Pete wrote back asking why Russia would even want to be stuck with Belarus. They have Kaliningrad, he said, they simply don't need Luka. As for Iran - they are having trouble selling the oil they have because of the all the trade bans. So an alternative market would do them fine. I told him that it would not be a matter of being stuck. Rather, Belarus would simply go back to being a manufacturing arm, just as they have always been.

But this business about whether Belarus has any friends was still on my mind so what I did was to go went through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs site from this year and found 28 trade partners specifically listed for Belarus:

Russia, Latvia, China, Ukraine, Moldova, Poland, Slovakia, India, Bulgaria, South Korea, Georgia, Kyrgystan, Austria, United Arab Emirates, Lithuenia, Estonia, Quatar, Venezuela, South Africa, Turkey, Germany, Egypt, Italy, Bangladesh, Hungary, Iran

Russia is the largest trade partner at over $20 Billion.

In addition to these, a bit later I remember also that there had been serious meetings with Oman, North Korea, Mongolia, Armenia and Israel, which off the top of my head I remember from specific articles. And also, of course the UK, all of it as well as Australia and New Zealand which I remembered because I advertised for Belarusian champagne sold in UK and printed articles about Belarus tractors down under. Also, the big news on the new BHTimes was the big meeting with the French and the president being interviewed by La Monde. !

I also found several foreign trade blurbs, the first one speaking of 2006 stated that Belarus traded with 174 countries, exporting its products to 139 countries and buying products from 159 countries. It also specifically mentioned the US and the Netherlands as major trade partners.

So with roughly forty countries willing to do business and another hundred buying and selling either way, I would not say that Belarus is all that isolated.

Those trade statistics also showed how the Russian oil deal has screwed the country because that huge debt alone changed Belarus from showing a trade profit to a major and growing deficit. As of the moment, if I remember correctly, Belarus is now down about $1.5 Billion just since new years.

Yes, Europe and America are trying to make life hard on Belarus, but in no way does their price fixing cause the end of the world for Belarus. Russia and Gazprom was the end of the world, European and American sanctions were not.

So the truth is that Belarus is not alone despite what may be said in the European and American press, it is just they are simply not doing so good at the moment. However, what is also true is that Belarus is not taking their current situation lying down. Manufacturing and productivity are up, the GDP is up and though prices are also up, inflation seems to be more the fault of the falling American dollar than any mishandling of the economy locally. Yes, paying double (and soon triple and more) for the gas is bad and not receiving oil at a price that allows for profitability has turned the entire enterprise sour, but nevertheless Belarus still goes to work in the morning. There have not been general strikes or any sort of havoc; life has pretty much just gone on so far.

Maybe this has also been for Russia's benefit and certainly the idea of calling this whole deal a "hostile takeover" was well covered in the Russian press around New Years.

Anyway, when I sent all of this over to Pete, this is what he had to say:

    Well, indeed....but the reason they are not 'doing so well at the moment' is that they have a complete shithead for a president. I know he is popular with many Belaruskis....but so were many historical authoritarian figures....the way he has treated oppositional figures is just the insecurity of a proto-dictator...
So there you go. All I can say to this is: That's Europe for you. Or better, as we are speaking Poland, That's an insecure proto-Europe for you, every time.

More soon…


Blogger politiques USA said...

The US has still a containment policy against Russia and China. More later maybe...

Tuesday, July 17, 2007  
Blogger politiques USA said...

Check out that's where the Beatroot hangs out :) We often talk about these "fat capitalist pigs" since most of the bloggers on this blog are far left or left, with some neocons and russian hawks too.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007  
Blogger politiques USA said...

I knew that I have seen quite a few names go by of countries which are doing business with Belarus and the number, though not everyone out of the 185 we have, seemed to be at least more than 20 or 30. Off the top of my head, Iran really likes Belarus and they like Chavez as well.
It is a clear sign that this world is not unipolar anymore, and it is becoming a multipolar world. For the european case, it is just a big mess between countries that think they see the beacon of "Democracy made in the USA" and post WWII pro US countries that are just tired of the Bush administration. The battleground will be played most likely in the Middle-East within a few decades: they all want their oil, all of them. In the meantime I hope a country will be able to come up with oil alternatives. Also the first country who will be able to get better technologies will be able to change the international rules (LIBOR and maybe IMF and worldbank). The XXIst century belongs to the ones who have natural resources, and they can use it as a weapon. I'm not even sure the dollar will keep its place where it was during the XXth century after 1974, since there are new alternatives to the dollar (Euros) but Europeans by crushing majority are not pro-war at all, they are a soft power. Many times I'm under the impression that the US only fights to keep its hegemony and it does not work anymore.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007  
Anonymous Pete Beatroot said...

I got nothing against Belarus, mate.

I got something against jumped up little shitbags. Don't care where they come from.

I got something against anyone who locks up journalists, is paranoid about letting foreign journalists in, makes friends with oppressive Iranian governments,etc, who inhibit any kind of opposition movements, which are sooo weak that they have to do all of the above.

Let's not try and presume that Luka is any kind of freedom fighter against an oppressive capitalist system; this guy is a very modern phenomenon: the opportunist authoritarian, ideological-lite shitbag.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007  
Blogger BEING HAD said...

Don't hold back Pete. Tell us how you really feel.

But you know, I am not asking for people to love the man, I am just saying that life is hard in Belarus but nevertheless, people are trying to retain the remnants of a specific culture. I just think the heavy handed approach has not only done nothing to better the situation, it has created a rift between that the world was much better without.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007  
Anonymous pete beatroot said...

Actually, one thing I don't like, or feel at unease about is the way foreign NGO's are trying to influence what happens in Belarus. I think it is Belarusians' business. And it's it they who must get rid of him.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007  
Blogger BEING HAD said...

That was what yesterday's blog was all about. I kind of thought of the quote as being almost a declaration of war. I was actually a little shocked that in general people I have spoken to seem to think that Lukashenka was in the right. Either that or people's hatred for George Bush has become universal.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007  
Anonymous Bob D said...

Over 1,000 illegal guns surrendered during amnesty campaign in Belarus

BBC Monitoring Ukraine & Baltics

July 13, 2007

Some 1,038 illegally held guns have been "removed from illicit circulation" in Belarus during a three-month gun amnesty campaign that Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka launched by his presidential decree on 30 March, the Belarusian news agency Belapan reported on 13 July, quoting the Interior Ministry.

Most of them accounted for smoothbore and gas guns that the owners said belonged to their relatives, the news agency added. As many as 442 unlicensed guns were surrendered, 385 were brought for registration and 211 illegal guns were seized in the period, Belapan said.

Source: Belapan news agency, Minsk, in Russian 0915 gmt 13 Jul 07


Tuesday, July 17, 2007  
Blogger politiques USA said...

I know Pete you have nothing against Belarus. You still can be pro american and anti Bush. This damn son of a Bush really screwed it up in the Middle-East. I'm rather peaceful though, I don't believe in wars, only if you fight for justice, and not for freedom.

Hey Adam, check your email please :)

Back to work

Tuesday, July 17, 2007  
Blogger BEING HAD said...

I remember when Lukashenko came to Pinsk that the KGB came to all the houses along the rout the president would travel and removed all of the hunting rifles and shotguns. People said that they were allowed to get them back. But after reading your article, my guess is that they allow these two things to interrelate with each other. George bush is also pretty good about forgetting civil liberties and human rights under the guise of national security. I consider myself with my polish deal to be one of the members of this group. Or maybe they just think of it as just cause, as in… well, I am not going to go there.

And hi Steve, I think if you are speaking about the people of the world rather than about governments, you have a very live and let live attitude. But rather than saying there an established "opposition", I think I would rather say that it is growing. Perhaps a lot of that unpopularity that Bush is facing these days is a byproduct of this. Or maybe it is just that nobody likes war except the gun runners, bomb techs and armament manufacturers (and other such cancer-like sycophant scum- not you though Sebastian…). But in either case there is nothing these days like we had during the cold war years. You can say that the level of communications has changed the world too much, or perhaps that Russia is far too rich and capitalist these days to really fight the fight despite the bombs and threats, but to my mind I don't see a real threat to start the war or the potential for a first launch coming any time soon. This was what the real cold war was about. Those were really scary times.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007  
Blogger politiques USA said...

I had never seen a country like the US and Europe creating so much world disorders compared to what they called "failed democracies" in the name of philosophical concepts, sometimes even theological ideas without an inch of moral guilt. Iraq: failed. Afghanistan: failed. Pakistan: it is failing. Kazakhstan: it is failing. Iran: dead. The whole West is in crisis and psychologies did not come to reality yet.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007  
Blogger politiques USA said...

but to my mind I don't see a real threat to start the war or the potential for a first launch coming any time soon. This was what the real cold war was about. Those were really scary times.
Yep I remember back then in Eastern and Western Europe. Putin owns a new military technology able to drill any anti-missile shield system. They scraped the agreements in 1985 but from a russian point of view, Europe has been playing against Russia for a while. Russia lost their eastern european sattelites, we can understand for Poland, Hungary and the Baltic States, but Europe and the US became crazy at one point with Ukraine, there were plans to incorporate this country inside NATO, and most of Europeans don't see these things. Same case for Belarus or Caucasus. We can't dismember these countries. That's the containment policy, after the Soviet Union, this policy is still valid vis-a-vis of Russia.

I don't see any direct confrontation, but in the long run, if oil prices go up, global strategies are going to be more alert of oilprice variations, and they'll re-organize their strategies in functions of oil prices, and not in function of cultural/historical heritage. Many countries are playing their chess in the Middle-East (China, Europe, USA, India, Russia), and the oil corridor goes from Turkey all the way through Israel/Palestine, it is the most dense area in oil barrels; there is enough money to avoid a bankrupt from the dollar.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007  

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