President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Lukashenko,
Thank you for staying for our bilateral meeting after the CIS events held yesterday. For me, yesterday’s meetings were very productive. We discussed a whole number of areas for expanding relations with the CIS countries.
Today, we will be able to discuss bilateral relations between Russia and Belarus, as well as the results of building the Union State, in a calm manner, without any rush. Indeed, we have made substantial headway this year, while coordinating our positions on key aspects.
We have approved 28 programmes for the Union State development. These key elements might not be noticeable at first, but they are quite substantial in the context of expanding modern international and close integration processes between both states. First, this concerns financial matters, taxation, customs and fiscal legislation. This is very important; it will create better conditions for developing the economy of both countries.
Unfortunately, bilateral trade volumes dropped by almost 17 percent during the 2020 pandemic, but they rebounded and grew by almost 36 percent this year. In effect, we have compensated for our 2020 losses…
President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko: And we have added more.
Vladimir Putin: And we have added almost twice as much. In this connection, I believe we should thank our colleagues from the Government of Russia and the Government of Belarus.
We have serious plans for implementing our interaction. You and I have been talking for almost 60 minutes, and we will continue this discussion at lunch.
I would also like to thank you for invariably supporting these processes, and I hope that we will continue to maintain the same productive cooperation in 2022, as well.
Alexander Lukashenko: Thank you, Mr President.
I share your positive assessment of yesterday’s event. It may have been an informal meeting, but we were still able to discuss matters of principle, including subjects where there has been a lack of progress, such as humanitarian matters related to science, the Russian language, and so forth.
It was quite a pleasant surprise that all our colleagues supported your proposals on the humanitarian agenda. I believe you will share this information with your people when the time comes. This was a positive event, held in an atmosphere of kindness and warmth.
Once again, we saw that the leaders of the post-Soviet republics, including Belarus, have a very keen understanding of the ongoing developments and can see through global politics in all its intricacies, thanks to Russia, of course. Russia has always had to deal with this for all of us, and this time is no exception, but in this way you have showed that we can rely on you. All of us, heads of state, showed that we do understand what is going on, and people in our countries understand this too. Trust me, this generates a unifying momentum in our relations prompting us to resolve the issues we face together.
You mentioned our recent agreements on developing the Union State. Our governments created groups for fulfilling these agreements and implementing them in Belarusian and Russian law. We are heading in this direction to ensure that the contours you have outlined become reality. This is what our efforts are all about.
Of course, you are aware of the developments in Belarus. I am really grateful, and my gratitude primarily goes personally to you, for what you have done for Belarus, and the support you have given us. It is not my intention to adulate you in any way, but whenever we propose or ask for something, you issue instructions to the right people, and Russian companies, the Russian Government and banks always respond and are ready to support us in these challenging times of sanctions.
Belarus is still being strangled: they imposed five sanction packages on us and are talking about a sixth round. Needless to say, these are silly sanctions, and no one needs them. Our trade increased, and so did our GDP this year despite the sanctions and the pandemic, which is by and large due to the Russian Federation and, to a lesser extent, our friends on the international stage. I would like to sincerely thank you for that in public. Make no mistake, no matter the state of our relations, the people of Belarus always pay their debts.
I believe that there is still much we can do together. I have been asking you for a long time not to stop our cooperation on the military and defence sectors and the defence industry and move beyond them. You have always supported me in this regard. I asked you not to stop our joint exercises, while also creating training centres for teaching our military to use the latest military equipment we buy from Russia. We are doing this, so the exercises must also carry on.
I know that you and your military officials are reviewing my proposals on holding exercises in Belarus. I would like you to decide on this matter. This would benefit Belarus-Russia relations.
This goes to say that we are cooperating across the board and will keep doing so.
Vladimir Putin: As you suggested, we will hold exercises at the beginning of the year. The military command will coordinate the dates – in March or February – I don’t know when they will decide.
As for the economy, I would like to note that our experts also believe that the Belarusian economy is in good shape, good financials, as far as I know, you are even going to close with a surplus. So in general, Belarus is a reliable partner for us, not only for political considerations, but based on the economic situation in the real sector of the economy. In this sense, I think we have achieved a lot over the past year, and I hope we will continue this in the next.
Alexander Lukashenko: Thank you for supporting our cooperation and import substitution. It turns out we can do a lot.
Vladimir Putin: Of course. I think we have taken another good step in giving Belarusian enterprises access to state procurement in Russia. This significantly expands the opportunities for Belarusian companies, and is also beneficial for us, because it increases the level of competition in the market.
Alexander Lukashenko: We had better compete with Russian companies.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, that’s right. The level of internal competition must be maintained. In this sense, this was an informed decision that will benefit both Belarus and Russia.
Alexander Lukashenko: We have come to an agreement on – we can say this, we have talked for an hour already – thank you again for supporting the cooperation plans in the aircraft industry. We have both civilian and military aircraft manufacturing plants. We can contribute a lot in terms of cooperation, especially since our products are in demand for the Russian aircraft industry and your new airplane.
Vladimir Putin: This will also be one of the instructions for the Government following our meeting.