The agenda included key aspects of the further development of Russia-Belarus strategic partnership and alliance, as well as integration cooperation as part of the Union State.
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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Lukashenko,
Thank you for agreeing to come.
President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko: As if I could disagree.
Vladimir Putin: Well, we are all busy people, and there is enough work to do at home, I understand.
By the way, I watched your news conference yesterday.
Alexander Lukashenko: You shouldn’t have. You must be dissatisfied.
Vladimir Putin: Why? No.
Alexander Lukashenko: No? That’s a plus for me.
Vladimir Putin: I share your opinions and approaches, as you know.
As agreed, we will devote most of our time to preparing for an expanded meeting with our colleagues from the governments.
Alexander Lukashenko: The Supreme State Council.
Vladimir Putin: The SSC, yes. And as usual, we will consider every aspect of our relations across the board, including security issues and military cooperation. But the core issue is the economy of course.
I would like to note that bilateral trade is on the rise and reached a record level of over US$43 billion last year. And most importantly (and this makes me very happy), we are expanding cooperation – actually, it was at a high level already, but opportunities are expanding for cooperation, primarily industrial cooperation.
Thanks to your efforts over the past decades – I must say that we have always known this, but now that our cooperation has become deeper, we have appreciated the fact that, thanks to your efforts over the past decades, Belarus has preserved much of the Soviet Union heritage and developed it further, and now we can use the results of this effort together. Moreover, our combined efforts create a kind of synergy: your industrial capabilities, on the one hand, and the demand from our market on the other, as well as additional efforts on the part of Russian businesses, engineers, and scientific research schools certainly work well together. We have seen effective growth in certain sectors, and we hope this will have good results – both for Belarus and for Russia.
And of course, our further work to strengthen the Union State, the 28 joint programmes that we talked about and that have been furthered by our colleagues in the government, create the right conditions, a springboard for further progress in our cooperation, primarily in the economic sphere, of course.
I am delighted to see you. Welcome!
I believe we will be able to discuss every aspect of mutual interest in a calm, yet working atmosphere that this setting creates.
Alexander Lukashenko: Mr Putin, it’s my pleasure.
Thank you for inviting me to your place – this also creates a certain atmosphere.
Trade was indeed unprecedented last year. Total turnover in goods and services (you mentioned goods) was US$50 billion, goods accounting for about US$44 billion, as you said, and services for the rest.
I was pleasantly surprised when the ambassador reported to me on the way here that your companies had ordered over US$300 million worth of products from our IT specialists, they paid more than US$300 million. There was an outcry about [specialists] fleeing Belarus, leaving Russia and so on. Only Russia just ordered US$300 million worth of products from Belarus and paid in full. And if we add Russian IT specialists, it is several billion dollars. So even here, the quote-unquote “peace-loving” countries failed to squeeze us hard enough to make the best minds flee our countries, as they said. Import substitution is nevertheless progressing.
As to our recent defence and security agreements (something we discussed three months ago or so) the Belarusian side fulfilled last year’s plans one hundred percent. We went above and beyond actually. I will tell you later what is being done in this regard.
As for microelectronics, remember we were concerned about our overdependence on imports. I will have a meeting next week on the matters we discussed in Sochi. We have indeed preserved the microelectronics industry – the Soviet legacy, as you said – and we have reached an agreement with the Russians and with the companies, which, too, have remained from the Soviet Union. So today our specialists say: do not worry, tell the President we will do everything necessary, the size will be a little larger, but for the short-term, we know where to go and what to do. That's the most important thing, people understand.
So, we have made progress with import substitution – I will not say that we have resolved all issues, but we have made progress.
I will clarify for those present: remember, we always had some tensions between KAMAZ and MAZ.
Vladimir Putin: It’s called “competition.”
Alexander Lukashenko: You know, there is no competition now. We make goods for KAMAZ, components, and KAMAZ makes them for us. That is, that competition has resulted in that hen certain companies left the market – they continue to work like this, and the market is big enough for both. There are minor problems, I can tell you about them. But what you mentioned is cooperation.
At one point, you raised the issue of cooperation in aircraft construction in the context of the EAEU. Now I can report to you that Belarusians are making these components for the MC-21 and the Superjet, I think…
Vladimir Putin: Superjet 100.
Alexander Lukashenko: …they are making up to a thousand component parts. We have three plants – two military and one civilian. Before, these were repair works, but now they are producing components and, as the Government reported to me, they are ready to start manufacturing the Su-25 aircraft that did well in Ukraine.
Vladimir Putin: An attack plane.
Alexander Lukashenko: Yes, an attack plane, a workhorse. We are prepared to manufacture this plane in Belarus with corresponding minor technological support from Russia.
In other words, we are moving deeper, doing all we can to overcome the barriers that are being artificially created for us.
I am deliberately not mentioning food – we have ensured our food security. And of course, people must be dressed. We have dealt with all this in every area. So, positive changes are tangible, and we will have many achievements to talk about with the people of Belarus and Russia at the Supreme State Council [of the Union State].
Vladimir Putin: And not only to talk about but also to plan for further development with our colleagues.
Alexander Lukashenko: Absolutely, the 28 programmes we mapped out have already been completed by about 80 percent.
Vladimir Putin: Yes.
Alexander Lukashenko: For the most part, only humanitarian issues remain, as you noted in St Petersburg, but we have adopted laws on customs and taxes.
Vladimir Putin: The key issues have been resolved. We have mainly technical issues left, for the most part – the creation of a committee and something else, but overall…
Alexander Lukashenko: The committee has already been set up and was assigned a location yesterday.
Vladimir Putin: Wonderful. I didn’t know about this. That’s great.
Alexander Lukashenko: Yes, this was yesterday. It should be located in Belarus, we have assigned the premises for it.
Vladimir Putin: This will certainly make our economy even more competitive.