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On 28 Union programs as a model integration strategy

By the law of multiplication

The bet on in-depth integration worked. This is how we can characterize the dynamics of Belarus-Russia relations in recent years.

In the conditions of enormous external pressure on the Union State, Belarus and Russia demonstrate positive trends in cooperation. Strengthening allied relations has become a natural and the only possible response to the global situation. The best confirmation of this is the statistical data, which indicate an increase in the volume of mutual trade. In January-March this year, it was up 22 percent compared to the same period last year. Olga Lazorkina, analyst at the Belarusian Institute of Strategic Research, notes: Belarus and Russia demonstrate their intention to move towards improving the model of cooperation, whose foundations are laid within the framework of integration programs.

— The leadership of the two countries sees the effectiveness of cooperation primarily in enhancing coordination, symmetry of measures taken in the economic sphere. There is a rethinking of understanding of strategic partnership as a willingness to provide large-scale support in crisis conditions. It is noteworthy that the asymmetry of potentials does not prevent partners from maintaining the Belarusian emphasis in international affairs. Both states are active members of integration associations not only in the post-Soviet space, but also on a broader scale. The authority and experience of Russia, the balance and consistency of Belarus allow us to maintain the backbone of integration in the region, restrain the manifestation of protectionism, and ensure effective cooperation in crisis situations.

Economic globalization, which has been developing quite successfully over the past two decades, has shown that joint efforts of states leads to many positive effects for the economy. This is especially important for countries that have limited natural resources.

— At the same time, as practice shows, the success of material support lies not in the volume, but in whether the recipient country will be able to use it rationally, – Olga Lazorkina is sure. — Belarus, unlike many countries of the world, has a pronounced internal potential, which has made it possible to preserve the economic specifics attractive to the Union.

Belarus is no stranger to regional integration. The country has long experience of cooperation both in the West and in the East. According to experts, today regionalization is going through another round, which is noticeably complicated by increased politicization. The BISR analyst emphasizes:

— Despite this, the understanding remains largely unshakable that interaction with neighbors is the basis for stable economic development in the current conditions. In parallel, there is a growing request for creating broader associations that would connect continents. In this regard, Belarus' foreign policy is aimed at integrating into the new economic realities as much as possible, without contrasting western and eastern directions.

Belarus and Russia have intensified economic integration without sacrificing sovereignty and independence. 28 intersectoral programs are being successfully implemented, defining the areas of activity for years to come.

— 28 union programs is a long-term strategy of model integration, which is already yielding results, — Olga Lazorkina sees real prospects. — In many ways, the programs are related to industry interaction, so the effects are narrow-profile and not always clear to the public.

In the current conditions, the expert emphasizes, the main efforts are aimed at strengthening the financial system of Belarus and Russia:

— Union programs through the harmonization of legislation have already dramatically reduced dependence on international payment systems. Accordingly, the development of their national segments, such as the Mir and Belkart banking cards, was stimulated. In addition, pilot projects have been launched in the quick payment system. It is obvious that the strategic objectives laid down in the Union programs require reinforcement with tactical steps to equalize the situation in the economic sphere.

Of course, industry occupies one of the key places in trade and economic relations between Belarus and Russia. The enterprises are connected by close cooperative ties, which are consolidated for the benefit of the two states. And in the current conditions, this makes it possible to solve global issues, including ensuring the technological sovereignty of the Union State, the BISR analyst believes:

— The import substitution projects we are implementing are the formation of a unique experience of preserving industrial production in conditions of large—scale restrictive measures. In essence, these projects are not envisaged as breakthrough. At the same time, they create a new vision of the movement of Belarus and Russia along the trajectory of development. The next move should be to ensure technological sovereignty in critical sectors of the economy. It is important to realize that industrial cooperation does not cancel competition. Moreover, it creates even more stringent conditions in which the key role will be played not by demand, but by supply ahead of schedule.

Recall that Russia allocated a RUB 105 billion loan to Belarus to implement import substitution programs. Within the framework of these funds, 12 large-scale projects are planned to be implemented in 2023-2024.

What, according to the analyst, should our countries focus on in the near future and what joint projects are of paramount importance?

— The financial and technological sectors occupy priority positions in the rapid response. The challenges faced by Belarus and Russia require first stabilization of the situation, maximum limitation of dependence on external factors. It seems relevant to conduct a qualitative audit of the resources of the scientific and technological base simultaneously with the creation of state programs to support the scientific sector to provide breakthrough solutions in the technology sector.