It is true that Belarus’ relations with Azerbaijan are at a higher level that with Armenia, Belarusian public figure Viktor Konoplev told Tert.am as he commented on official Minsk’s decision to extradite blogger Alexander Lapshin to Azerbaijan.
The explanation is a simple one.
“Azerbaijan is richer and Belarus can export more of its products, including military goods, there. Time and again, when in conflict with Russia, Belarus imports Azerbaijani oil. In 2010, when Belarus had to pay its gas debts to Russia, Azerbaijan gave it a loan,” he said.
Mr Konoplev has a very simple explanation for extradition of blogger Alexander Lapshin to Azerbaijan.
“At his press conference on February 3, [President Alexander] Lukashenko made the following comment on the situation: ‘when the issue emerged, I saw there was such a man.’ I instructed our foreign office: ‘listen, to avoid a scandal, try to coordinate it with the foreign ministers of Israel, Russia and Azerbaijan, for him not to become a hostage. If Israel, Azerbaijan and Russia reach an agreement, we’ll do what they agree on. But none of them wanted to agree.’
“But Lukashenko was erroneous at his point. None wanted to pay, and the Belarusian leader fell into a trap of self-deception. What could he do in such a situation? After saying ‘A’ you have to say ‘B’. If a person has been arrested, with no one willing to stand bail for him, they had nothing else to do, but hand him over to Azerbaijan. If we recall Lukashenko’s statement saying that he could not let Lapshin free: ‘It has now been made public. If it had not been made public, I would have got to thinking.’”
Mr Konoplev believes it is a diplomatic setback for Belarus because official Minsk sacrificed its relations with not only Armenia, but also Russia and Israel to good relations with Azerbaijan.
What is the difference between the current Belarusian-Russian conflict and the previous ones? It is primarily its historical context.
First, Russia is much more often using strong-arm methods in its foreign policy, which caused the Ukraine crisis and ‘a cold war’ with the West.
Secondly, Belarus remains neutral in Russia’s conflicts with the rest of the world.
Thirdly, the decline is global oil prices caused an economic crisis in the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and scaled down Russia’s energy grant to Belarus.
Fourthly, all that overlapped a grave crisis of the Belarusian model of society.