Belarus’ Prime Minister Andrei Kobyakov accused Russia of failing to fulfill its obligations under the agreement the two nations reached when Minsk became a member of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) – an organization initiated and led by Moscow.
Speaking in Kyrgyzstan’s capital Bishkek, Kobyakov said there were “weighty” reasons to why Belarus did not attend the EUEU meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia, in December 2016.
“The decision was not spontaneous,” Kobyakov said.
The Belarusian PM pointed to several issues.
“We, indeed, are expressing extreme concern over the continuing unresolved problems in the oil and gas sector, the failure to comply with bilateral and multilateral agreements on conditions for the supply of energy resources, and the inaction against this backdrop of the Eurasian Economic Commission,” Kobyakov said.
Experts told Polygraph.info that Kobyakov’s statement is true.
“Does or does not Russia uphold to her obligations in the EAEU? No, not at all,” said Atlantic Council senior fellow Anders Aslund, who added that there are “many complaints.”
Belarus, he said, has complained that Russian authorities are blocking its food exports to Russia.
“Decisions in the EAEU commission are made solely by the Russian government,” Aslund said. “Russia has re-imposed a border zone and border controls recently. Belarus complains about not enjoying the Russian domestic prices of oil and gas.”
Andrei Yahorau, a Belarussian scholar and director of the Center for European Transformation, said the Eurasian Economic Union treaty itself is “not transparent,” which makes it “difficult to give a more exact assessment.”
Russia, he said, is not upholding its treaty obligations, at least “from the Belarusian government point of view.”
Swedish analyst Andres Ostlund told Polygraph.info that “Russia has initiated the EAEU as a tool for control and domination over the ‘near abroad’” -- meaning the countries neighboring Russia that were once part of the Soviet Union.
“Russia will bend the rules in the EAEU whenever it suits Russia’s interests,” Ostlund said. “Now Russia has its brawl with Belarus and then the EAEU comes to play for Russia to get Belarus back in line.”
The Eurasian Economic Union treaty, signed between Russia and Belarus in 2014, has expanded to include two Central Asian nations, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, along with Armenia.
Russia hopes to expand the EAEU by offering membership to such countries as India and Brazil. President Vladimir Putin reportedly sees the project as potentially bringing former Soviet states back together, as well as further spreading Russia’s influence and creating a bloc similar to the European Union but led by Moscow.
Along with economic cooperation, the treaty also promises an open-borders policy, including visa waivers for all the member-states.
However, some observers noted from the start of the EAEU that the union, as one of them put it, fell short of “Putin’s lofty vision.”
The EAEU’s future became particularly uncertain after Russia annexed Crimea and Western nations imposed economic sanctions on Moscow for its actions in Ukraine – the country Vladimir Putin reportedly viewed as the jewel in the economic union’s crown.