However the military base is only image-building for the Kremlin and has no practical use.
Andrei Parotnikau, the founder and the coordinator of the analytical project Belarus Security Blog notes in his interview with the "EuroBelarus" Information Service that the expert assessment of the main political campaign of the year, i.e. parliamentary elections, did not prove true. "The elections were very quiet, - said Andrei Parotnikau. – There were no obvious threats to the regime in 2016, the year was quite stable."
Nevertheless, according to the analyst, "despite all the loud statements it is impossible to say we achieved a full restoration of relations with the West. NATO still does not see Belarus as a partner, which became very obvious when Belarus did not get an invitation to the NATO summit in Warsaw, - underlined Andrei Parotnikau. - NATO is, primarily, USA. And the Belarusian authorities so far fail to convince the White House that Minsk is a worthy partner for cooperation, interaction and dialogue."
The analyst mentioned that, unfortunately, Belarus has missed a good opportunity to further improve relations with Ukraine: "Another shameful moment in UN when Belarus voted against the resolution initiated by Ukraine on human rights violations in the occupied Crimea very clearly demonstrates that Belarus is not a reliable partner for Kiev. We do not know the whole story and it is quite possible that the cooling of the relations or the disappointment of Ukraine was preceded by a disappointment of Minsk: there was an unrealized production project at an aircraft repair plant. The project was important and promising for Belarus."
As for 2017, Andrei Parotnikau believes that the Belarusian opposition will have a "very narrow field of possibilities." "In addition to the internal problems, external partners are disappointed with the actions of the opposition, they openly state that the Belarusian politicians have lost too many chances. Thus, we can expect the opponents of the regime to have scarce resources in 2017”.
The analyst highlighted the likelihood of the Kremlin's return to the issue of placing a military air base in Belarus and expanding its military presence. "We should not forget that Russia holds presidential elections in 2018. And Putin does not have that many assets to use during the campaign. – Parotnikau believes. - But from a practical point of view, Russia has no burning reason for military cooperation with Belarus. Regarding the unified air defense system, after implementing the S-400 missile systems Russia can monitor the situation in the airspace over Belarus from its own territory."
"I am convinced that the issue of the Russian military base is a pure image-building, a political issue. Moscow wants to show that Belarus is the zone of Russian influence and that others have nothing to do here", - explained Andrei Parotnikau.
The analyst is sure the information attacks on Belarus will escalate in 2017, "but there is neither system nor conspiracy against Belarus." "Russia is not pleased with Minsk’s position about Ukraine, at the same time the volume of resources available to Russia reduced sharply because of the crisis, but Belarus, as usual, keeps asking for help. Therefore, Russia is of course irritated by the behavior of Minsk", - showed Andrei Parotnikau.
As for the Belarus-EU relations, "the Belarusian authorities have no intention to join Europe, all of this is just rhetoric to expand the field for a political maneuver and an opportunity to receive additional financial resources as well as to reach European markets with the Belarusian products. It must be noted that Europe also very clearly sees the situation. Moreover, the EU has no time to deal with Belarus given the numerous internal and external problems."