25 January 2007
Russians on Russia's "Image Losses" During the Belorussian Oil
The following public figures were polled for their opinions of how the recent disagreement over oil had affected Russia's image abroad. These were originally published in Nezavisimaya Gazeta on January 17, 2007 in Russian.
Mikhail Margelov, Federation Council International Affairs Committee Chairman
I do not think that Russia has suffered losses to its image. Belarus's losses, which are estimated at $3 billion at this point, are tangible economic losses. As regards Lukashenka's image in the West, it could not be worse. As for Russia, we have to explain in greater detail what we actually want. We actually want to put an end to double standards in the former CIS. We want to stop linking CIS countries to us economically by selling them energy resources at preferential prices. In essence, we are giving up the imperialistic policy in the post-Soviet area. What losses to Russia's image are we talking about? Of course, we have sustained economic losses: Our companies were not allowed to deliver energy resources to customers, whereas Belarus tried to damage their reputation. I think that our companies should sort things out and file suits against relevant Belarusian organs. However, we are not to blame, so to speak. It is the Belarusian side that decided to advocate nonmarket principles in mutual relations.
Moscow Carnegie Center Expert Nikolay Petrov
I think it could not. It seems that it learned lessons from last year's gas war with Ukraine although, naturally, Russia suffered certain losses to our image this time also. It was impossible to resolve political and economic problems without them. Losses to our image were inevitable and were due to tension between Europe and Russia. Any Russia's actions, even in regard to those countries and regimes which Europe regards as undemocratic, are given a hostile reception.
Public Chamber Member Sergey Markov
It could not, because everything should have been done earlier. A contradiction had appeared: Movement toward the union state had stopped, but Lukashenka wanted to receive subsidies, just as before, while demonstrating to Russia his political will and readiness to do this. All this could have been done in a much milder fashion and with smaller losses. By and large, there was even no need to stop oil and gas deliveries; we could have nonetheless demonstrated our readiness to separate flies from meatballs, as Putin stated, if there is movement toward subsidies rather than toward the union state. Naturally, these losses could have been tens times smaller.
Gennadiy Gudkov, State Duma Security Committee Member
No , it could not. The conflict had gone too far. Above all, there was no logical solution to it. Had Russia occupied a more or less consistent position some five-six years ago, perhaps, we would not have suffered losses to our image. It is also bad that Russia has banked on Lukashenka as its main ally through all these years, and it is absolutely obvious today that he does not want the two states' unification. Therefore, we may have the same situation as we have with Georgia. We continue to bank on the incumbent president, but he may be replaced by a much more pro-Western and pro-NATO leader than Lukashenka whom we understand and to whom we have become accustomed. Russian politicians should now consider this scenario very seriously: While pursuing a stricter policy we have to know on what forces within that country we can rely and who has a friendly and loyal attitude to Russia, for instance, advocates closer integration and final unification. I cannot see these steps at this point.