Over the weekend I had read the reports about the bitter “milk war” going on between Russia and Belarus, which is actually just one of many food-related trade disputes we’ve seen in recent months (see also the confusing ban on U.S. pork imports). Most surprisingly, the Belarusian delegation refused to attend the summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a relatively new regional grouping consisting of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Thanks to the Belarusian boycott of the summit, the CSTO was unable to sign the agreement to found a new NATO-like rapid reaction force to jointly respond to threats in the region (though the Uzbeks also refused to sign). The Russians are naturally quite upset about the disobedience of Europe’s last dictator – and at least one official let his/her tongue slip, threatening to remove Lukashenko from the presidency to install another leader who knows his place. The opposition website Charter97 has published the following extracts from a Kommersant article on the incident:
As the newspaper writes, “it has become clear that the CSTO, which is positioned by Russia as a key instrument of guaranteeing security in the region from Belarus to Central Asia, is vulnerable itself. And the threat to the organisation’s work lies within its members”.
The Kremlin is not going to forgive Minsk public exhibit of this weakness. “We do not have any particular hard feelings about Belarus’ behavior. It looks as if somebody has become tired of being the president of this country,” a high-ranking official of the presidential administration Dmitry Medvedev said to “Kommersant”.
“In the nearest future Moscow could start a new attack on Minsk. This time a gas attack,” the newspaper writes. “In the end of May a counselor of the Russian Embassy in Belarus on economic issues Andrei Kuznetsov stated that Belarus pays for Russian gas not fully. “Price for gas in the first quarter was to be $210 per thousand cubic metres, however, we are paid $150,” the diplomat said.