It is necessary to have a fresh look at cooperation prospects and build up ties with Belarus, Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko said during a meeting with Governor of Russia’s Novgorod Oblast Andrei Nikitin in Minsk on 17 October.
The Belarusian head of state welcomed the Russian governor and noted that this is Andrei Nikitin’s first visit to Belarus.
“Such a visit offers a great opportunity to learn more about our country, assess its economic and manufacturing capacities and have a new look at bilateral cooperation prospects,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said. “Personal involvement of governors in building ties is of paramount importance. If a governor is interested, things will go from strength to strength. It is encouraging that your region and Belarus are interested not only in a more vibrant trade, but also in more active cooperation across other areas,” the Belarusian leader added.
The President stated that cooperation with Russian regions is high on Belarus’ agenda. “Some (or maybe, many) in Moscow are concerned about our frequent meetings with heads of Russian regions. There is no conspiracy here. I often say that if certain people think that this is their Russia, they are wrong. This is our Russia as well! People need to get used to it. Russia is more than just a country. Especially for Belarus. This is the ideology, and I cannot give up on it,” he said.
Novgorod Oblast is one of the Russian regions with which Belarus has built particularly close ties. “We have always maintained good relations. Although our trade is not so impressive, about $100 million, we have room for growth as athletes say,” Aleksandr Lukashenko noted.
Belarus purchases reinforcement materials, chemical substances, sawn timber and ceramics from Novgorod Oblast. Belarus is ready to offer agricultural products, machinery and equipment, as well as construction services.
Aleksandr Lukashenko mentioned that he had often invited Russian governors to build closer ties in the agricultural sector, in particular he suggested supplying seeds and pedigree cattle. After all, availability of foodstuffs and basic products is crucial for maintaining stability in a state. “We know that we need to provide people with food and clothes. If we do it, neither Russia nor Belarus will collapse,” he said. The President recalled that leaders of the Soviet Union disregarded people’s needs, which was one of the reasons for the disintegration of the state. “They were busy with space exploration, new arms, and no one wanted to take care of people’s needs,” the President said.
The Belarusian head of state counts on the assistance of the Russian governor with access to construction projects in Novgorod Oblast for Belarusian companies. Belarusian construction workers have already participated in large-scale construction projects involving turnkey construction of residential neighborhoods. “If you are interested, let’s give it a try. We can start with some small-scale projects,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said. In addition to that, Belarus has the experience of building big farms, including in Russian regions, even in Sakhalin. “We can build an agricultural complex for you at a reasonable price,” the head of state suggested.
He also put forward proposals related to supplies of Belarusian machinery and equipment, including modern MAZ buses with various types of engines and trolleybuses with an increased autonomous motion system. “We produce a broad range of trucks, road machinery, municipal machinery and construction machinery. I know that you will visit some of Belarus’ biggest machinery manufacturers, including Minsk Tractor Works and Minsk Automobile Plant. You will see that this market economy urge to cut everything into pieces and divide is not the only option. We have retained these huge industry giants that we inherited from the Soviet Union, however they operate in the market environment in the same way as many other companies around the world,” he said.
The Russian governor is also set to visit Agrokombinat Dzerzhinskiy, one of Belarus’ biggest agro-industrial holding companies. “Nearly entire Dzerzhinsk District is employed by this company. This company is very efficient,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said. In this regard, the President recalled his meeting with German farmers who spoke highly of the country’s agricultural sector and big agricultural producers. The Germans regretted that there are many small private farms in Germany. “Any private farm owner tries to make money. They harvest grain, sell it and push the government to open borders to sell it further. However, grain should be processed further to get meat and milk. This is more complicated,” the President said. He emphasized that such a complex processing cycle can be handled by big agricultural enterprises. “Russia has companies like that. This is the way to go, though it involves huge costs,” he added.
“Most importantly, you should understand that our goal is to deepen economic ties and bilateral cooperation, because this is the foundation. If there is an interest in economic cooperation, other things will work, too,” the President concluded.