INTERVIEW: BELARUS FOREIGN MINISTER VLADIMIR MAKEY
'Spirit of 1945' Needed To Confront
the War Danger, Globalization
The 2012 United Nations General Assembly, which opened on Sept. 26, has occasioned war-mongering histrionics, and sober warnings. From Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cartoon-drawing of a "red line" against an Iranian nuclear bomb, to U.S. President Barack Obama's intoning that "we will do what we must" to stop Iran's nuclear program, the international party of war followed a script to motivate the inevitability of an attack on Iran.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, as we reported last week, warned in a Sept. 25 interview upon his arrival in New York for the UNGA, that such a pathway, and/or interventions in Syria, could lead from an "Arab Autumn" to a "nuclear winter." Back in Moscow, President Vladimir Putin on Sept. 26 told a group of diplomats whose credentials he was receiving, that the international situation today is "troubled and unstable."
Putin continued, "The UN Charter sets out the principles for collectively managing international relations and establishing a fair and just world order that respects all countries' sovereignty and equality. These principles guide us to settle all problems through negotiations, without resorting to outside intervention. Strict adherence to these principles is needed more than ever today.... This directly concerns the events taking place in the world's 'hot spots,' above all, in the Middle East and North Africa. Various forms of instigation and continued violence, with the aim of forcing regime change, will only drive the situation into a dead end.... We see the solution in coordinated action by the international community to settle crises through peaceful political and diplomatic means and encourage the conflicting parties to end armed violence."
One of the high-ranking officials who delivered stark warnings from the UNGA podium was Foreign Minister Vladimir Makey of Belarus, speaking on Oct. 1. He called for restoring the 1945 "Spirit of San Francisco," referring to the founding conference of the United Nations, barely two weeks after the death of President Franklin Roosevelt. Without a return to justice and equity, he said, the world faces "a scenario that is even worse" than the current crisis, one that "is likely to be a modern version of the medieval Dark Ages, but aggravated by ever more dangerous transnational threats and challenges." In particular, Makey asserted that "almost all of the global economic challenges have resulted from the policy of 'market fundamentalism,' relentlessly pursued by its proponents over the last four decades. Its major outcome has been the steady rise of inequality at all levels."
On Sept. 29, Makey elaborated the message of the Belarus delegation to the UNGA, in an interview with EIR Russia and Eastern Europe editor Rachel Douglas and EIR UN correspondent Leni Rubinstein. The in-person discussion was supplemented by additional written statements, provided by the Mission of Belarus to the UN, which are excerpted in footnotes to this interview. The conversation was held in Russian and was translated by EIR.
Makey assumed the post of Foreign Minister in August of this year. After a military career in the Soviet and then Belarusian Armed Forces, retiring from the latter with the rank of colonel in 1993, he worked for 15 years in the diplomatic service of Belarus. From 2008, until this past Summer, he was chief of staff for President Alexander Lukashenka.
UN Principles Distorted
EIR: Please discuss the goals of Belarus, and your delegation to the UN General Assembly, in the following context. This UNGA session is happening at a time of great tension. President Putin of Russia just this week talked about the systemic nature of the financial crisis, as well as the danger of unilateral actions in the military-strategic area, in circumvention of the UN Charter. Would you comment on this situation, in which various "red lines" and threats to use force have been voiced here?
Vladimir Makey: The situation in the world today, indeed, is a difficult one. Our delegation's objective at the current UNGA session is to promote our national interests and to defend those interests, using the mechanisms that the United Nations Organization provides.
On the situation as a whole, I would like to say that, unfortunately, the principles upon which the UNO was founded, in San Francisco in 1945, have become distorted. The very spirit of how this organization should function has been lost. The UNO was founded in order to free the world from a recurrence of the most horrible war ever experienced, and to ensure a just world in the future.
During the period of the Cold War and the standoff between the two blocs—the Warsaw Treaty Organization and NATO—and between the Soviet Union and the United States of America, I think that the UNO did play its part in preventing yet another world war. Indeed, there were cases where the world really did stand on the brink of such a war, such as the Cuban Missiles Crisis.
But, unfortunately, in recent times this coordinating role of the UNO has been somewhat lost. You mentioned certain "red lines." There is tension in various regions. Just take the latest events in the greater Middle East. It is no secret that, in the UN framework, a number of resolutions were formally adopted for the purpose of preventing the fomentation of tension in a number of regions, including in several specific countries in the Middle East. These formal resolutions, however, have been interpreted by individual countries according to their own lights. Ultimately, this has led to several legitimate regimes being overthrown by force. And, unfortunately, the development of the situation in these countries shows that this did not lead to a restoration of democracy, as had been pre-announced.
Therefore, we think that one should be very cautious with regard to this type of action. But it does indicate that the UNO failed to play the role it should have.
We advocate—and this is the line we intend energetically to promote through our delegation's work during the current session of the UNGA, and in the future—making the greatest possible efforts to enhance the coordinating role of the UNO in bringing about a just world order. We should return to the principles of lawfulness and equity that were laid down by the founding fathers of the UNO in the year when the organization was established.
Globalization's Dark Side
I believe that the following point is also very important. We talk about how globalization helps to unite the world and to view the world as a single whole. It leads to the absence of limitations on people's ability to move between different countries and of barriers to trade in various products, and to freedom of information, and so forth. But, alongside these advantages for humanity, the relevant threats and challenges are also increasing.
Specifically, in our country we now confront cross-border crime, illegal migration, trafficking in women and drugs. The problem of Afghanistan: Enormous quantities have been interdicted, coming through our country, on our borders with the European Union, both of illegal narcotics, and illegal immigrants and criminals.
Some countries, also in the framework of this globalization, try to use economic pressure and economic blackmail against weaker countries. This has not brought about any reduction of poverty. That is, the advantages of globalization did not eliminate poverty, which is the cause of a number of other problems in the world.
Therefore, in the framework of our delegation's work at the UNO, we intend to devote much attention to improving the role of the UNO in countering challenges and threats that arise in the future. We uphold the principle that each country has its own distinct pathway of development. Every country has the right to develop in its own way, and on its own path, but that should not create problems for other countries. There may be multiple pathways of development, but this should not create new problems.
EIR: You are talking about a combination of sovereignty and mutual interests.
Makey: That's right. And, therefore, it seems to me that the UNO and its research apparatus should concentrate on developing ways to confront the threats which we may encounter in the future. This is one of the most important objectives, in my view.
The Crisis of Liberal Finance
EIR: Related to the question of sovereignty and globalization, there is the financial crisis, which indeed is systemic. The founder of our publication, Lyndon LaRouche, in 2008, gave an interview published in a Belarusian magazine called Planeta, under the title "The International Monetary System Is Falling Apart and Has No Future in Its Present Form." You have mentioned 1945 and the founding of the UNO; in that article, Mr. LaRouche was talking about the concept which Franklin Roosevelt had about economic development in the post-war world. He has often discussed Roosevelt's vision of a post-colonial world, after the defeat of fascism, which would involve cooperation among the United States and the Soviet Union, especially, and the other allies; and that after Roosevelt's death, when the British line took the upper hand in American policy, with [Secretary of State Dean] Acheson and [President Harry] Truman, et al., this hope was lost. Then we had the Cold War and the nuclear terror. At the same time, Roosevelt's economic policies are the beginning of what we need now.
If we look at the post-Soviet area, it's obvious that Belarus is the country that took the bait of liberalism to the least extent, and adopted liberal reforms to the least degree. It doesn't mean that your economy is perfect; the problems are known. But if we look at what has happened now, this involves your relations with the European Union. It's no secret that the EU, as a model of "liberal imperialism," as people in London call it, has failed. Now, with the new European Stability Mechanism being pushed through, they cannot print enough money to rescue the banks of Spain, or of Italy, or France.
How do you see the impact, on your policy, of the latest developments in the financial realm—the crisis of liberalism, and liberal finance; and, on the other hand, the possibility of restoring Roosevelt's kind of policy, a credit policy for the real sector? Would Belarus, with its allies, take an initiative in this direction?
Makey: The question you have posed would require an entire lecture to address, but I would like to outline, perhaps, certain of our basic principles.
I think it is an important accomplishment of our state, that after independence in 1992, we did not plunge immediately into the tumult of a market economy. Unlike in neighboring countries, where this did happen, we decided that we would move very carefully and calmly, and, as our President puts it, proceed from the standpoint of real-life practice.
We witnessed how in the neighboring countries, instantaneously, within one day, some people became wealthy millionaires and others remained poor. We couldn't allow that kind of wild stratification of rich and poor. And the people who became rich, did so on the basis of wealth created by many generations before them, so in effect, it was wealth that belonged to the nation.
We decided to proceed carefully and cautiously, not surrendering the state's control of the levers by which economic processes are managed.
Many people reproached us for having non-market economic methods and said that we were lagging behind the most advanced processes taking place on the international scene. But time has shown that we were right.
In the early 1990s, a great number of our enterprises were essentially shut down. They weren't producing. Belarus, in its day, had been something like the "assembly plant" of the Soviet economy. This was because our people were highly educated and trained, we had good technical specialists, and so this was where end-products were made.
We have, for example, the BelAZ heavy hauling machinery plant, which has a world market share of one-third [for mining dump trucks]. We have the Minsk Automotive Plant (MAZ), with a very large output of trucks, and a tractor plant that produces a great number of tractors. We sell potash fertilizers in the United States. We make various metals products, pipes for oil and gas pipelines.
In the early 1990s, these enterprises essentially came to a halt. Some of them began to be privatized. During our first Presidential election, in 1994, I remember that when [then-candidate, now President] Lukashenka would come to a region, people would assemble and demand: "Get our factory going! Give us the opportunity to work!" People came out to protest, because they were unable to earn enough to feed themselves and their families.
Nationalization and Privatization
We even had to nationalize some of the enterprises, in accordance with existing laws, of course. And the state assumed this burden, so the activity of many enterprises was relaunched. I already mentioned tractors, autos, BelAZ trucks, and then televisions, and a number of other enterprises. They continue to function today.
Up through the end of the 1990s, and in the first years of the new century, we did not relinquish the state's participation in these processes. In the early 2000s, in consideration of the fact that the economy had achieved a certain degree of stability, we made the decision to proceed with the privatization and corporatization, at a calm pace, of enterprises that are not what we call system-forming, critical ones for the functioning of the nation. This meant enterprises in the light industry sector, and some in other sectors, like public dining establishments.
But, I repeat, this was not indiscriminate privatization. It was a calm approach to privatization, and we tried to sell these enterprises for what they were actually worth, and not give them away at cut-rate prices.
It's no secret that a lot of people, at that time, wanted to come to Belarus and acquire the juiciest morsels dirt-cheap. The most important enterprises. Some were eyeing the oil refineries, and other plants, like certain breweries. We had problems with a number of investors who attempted to acquire ownership of various enterprises in devious, not entirely legal ways. We blocked such processes, which would have meant squandering our property.
Essentially, by around 2005-2006, and up to 2008, our economy showed steady and stable growth. The state did not relinquish the reins for guiding economic processes. But, unfortunately, the crisis of 2008 seriously weakened our economy. Our economy is an open one. We export over 80%, more like 87%, of what we produce. And thus, we clearly are dependent, to a great extent, on the situation in our foreign markets. Unfortunately, the absence of paying capacity in those markets caused problems for us, as well. We could keep producing, but nobody wanted to buy our products. There were large inventories piled up in the warehouses.
We worked very hard to overcome these processes, and we did, it seems to us, succeed in minimizing them. Once again, this was possible because the state had not relinquished the process of managing the economy. Somewhere around 2009-2010 we achieved normal development of our economy once again. Unfortunately, however, we also, at a certain point, went a bit overboard, I must confess, in the sense that we attempted to "live on credit." Some of our financial specialists proposed to use monetary emissions, and we tried to use this money-printing for the purpose of implementing various projects, such as housing construction, other projects—all though monetary emissions. This policy seemed to be helping the people, but it resulted in problems for our financial system, and how it functions. Essentially, our [Belarusian] ruble's value was cut in half during 2011.
We then adopted very tough austerity measures, in order to stabilize the situation by the end of 2011. So, now we have categorically precluded money-printing from our policy options. We are now operating on economic principles including not resorting to monetary emission, and also principles like a strict relationship between wage increases and productivity.
Actually, we didn't squander the money, we didn't just hand it out to people, but we built housing. And we reorganized agriculture and the agroindustrial complex. Our agriculture is now a profit-making sector. Earlier it was loss-making, but last year we made $3 billion in foreign currency through agricultural exports. This year it's almost $5 billion, and the planned level in 2013 will be almost $7 billion in foreign currency earnings from agricultural exports.
I think that food is going to be one of the main world problems in the near future. The lack of food, while the population grows. We have now ensured our own food security, and are exporting food to other countries, including to certain of our neighbors, which earlier were known as breadbaskets of the Soviet Union.
EIR: Is there also food-processing, or is it export of raw foodstuffs?
Makey: We have a highly developed food-processing industry. We don't export raw foodstuffs, except, say, dry non-fat milk. On the whole, our food exports are finished products: cheese, butter, semi-finished products, and so forth. President Lukashenka himself used to run an agricultural enterprise, so he knows the importance of improvements in this sector. Our food-processing companies comply with international standards. A number of them have received EU certificates of compliance with European standards.
Returning to the question of food security, this year we harvested almost 9.5 million metric tons of grain, which is more than ever before, even in the Soviet period. That's almost one ton for every inhabitant of the country [Belarus population, ca. 9.5 million—ed.]. That gives us confidence with respect to food security.
EIR: How much of that 87% of your production that is exported, is food?
Makey: Petroleum products is the single biggest category. In absolute monetary terms, this year agricultural exports will be $4.7 billion, or about 8% of our exports.
To finish up on this question, in the period immediately ahead—because many of our specialists, our economists, say that 2008 was not the last crisis, and it is not yet known what will happen with the international financial system in the future—we are also trying to act with great caution and care. We do not intend to relinquish state control over the levers by which the economy is managed. And when we move to corporatize and privatize enterprises, we still intend, at least in the near term, to keep the system-forming enterprises in the hands of the state. Beyond that, we'll take a look and see. If a fair and adequate price is offered for a given enterprise in the future, I don't exclude that it might be sold, but only at a justified price. Not the way it happened in some neighboring countries.
The Eurasian Union
EIR: In that context, how is Eurasian integration related to your tasks of economic modernization? You refer to "radical modernization" and the need to have foreign investments in order to carry it out. Some people in Russia, too, think in such categories, saying, "We don't have the money," for things like the development of the Far East. What about the integration of the entire continent, especially through the development of corridors—transport corridors as development corridors?
We are aware that this idea is also of interest to Belarus: the concept of development corridors from Minsk to Moscow, to Vladivostok. This brings us back to the question of credit-creation for the development of the real sector. How do you see the unfolding of this process from the Customs Union, to the Single Economic Space, and the possible future Eurasian Union?
Makey: Of course, each nation could try to exist in and of itself, but already in the 1990s, we realized that Belarus would be unlikely to survive, if it remained all alone. Without sacrificing our independence or sovereignty, we made a decision that we did need to seek ways to survive under difficult conditions, and to find a way to continue our own existence within integrational associations: on the regional level, and supra-regional.
At the present time, two-thirds of world trade takes place through regional associations. Things that in the past were done through negotiations among individual countries, have now moved to the level of inter-regional organizations.
Therefore, for us there was no "to be or not to be" choice. What had to be, was our participation in various integrational groups. There were many experiments. We had the Union State with Russia, which, it should be said, worked rather well and continues to exist. In fact, the documents that had been elaborated for the Belarus-Russia Union State became the basis for the fundamental agreements of the [Belarus-Russia-Kazakstan] Customs Union, which began to operate on Jan. 1, 2010.
But, at a certain point, we concluded that there should be closer integration among those countries which desired this, and that it would result in the establishment of equal conditions among these countries for operating in a common market. This concerns the regulation of customs and duties, equal access to sources of energy, and so forth.
And so the decision was adopted. The decision was made by the leaders of three countries—Russia, Belarus, and Kazakstan—to establish the Customs Union.
Later, our leaders reached agreement to create the Eurasian Union by 2015, an even closer form of association, although there is a certain distance that needs to be traveled, to get there. We ourselves, at a certain point, had some doubts about it, and debated the merits of taking part in this new organization, or not. But, having calculated through all the options, we concluded that for us this will be important and beneficial. It is a common market of around 170 million inhabitants. There is demand for our products in that market. For us it is very profitable, and so we intend to promote this process of integration actively, in the framework of the Customs Union and the future Eurasian Economic Union.
Furthermore, as you may know, three Presidents published articles. The Russian President, who was still Prime Minister at that time, and then our President, and President Nazarbayev [of Kazakstan] published articles in the Russian newspaper Izvestia. Our President, in his article, proclaimed the idea of the "integration of integrations."
This corresponds to what you asked about the creation of transportation corridors. What, essentially, is this "integration of integrations"? The Customs Union, or the European Union—they cannot exist alone. ASEAN—same thing. The APEC regional grouping also cannot exist alone. Our idea is to have as much cooperation as possible, so that we have greater interpenetration of these regional groupings. The European Union: that there be a closer connection between the European Union and the Customs Union, with China, with the ASEAN countries, and so forth. East-West and North-South. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
We advocate the greatest possible interlinking of these regional groupings, so that our Customs Union might be a closely involved participant in this interlinking on all levels, the economic level first and foremost. As far as I can judge, this corresponds to your idea about these corridors.
EIR: Doesn't it create certain problems, that one of the major groupings you have referred to, the EU, has just about bankrupted itself?
Makey: Yes. There does exist a danger, and I have had discussions on this topic with a number of representatives of EU countries; there is, of course, a very big danger. Many people are talking even in terms of a "crisis of the Eurozone," and the possible disappearance of the euro.
As we analyze the situation, we think that there should be multiple reserve currencies in the world. We cannot rely on the dollar alone. We cannot rely on the euro alone. I think that there should be a system of dollar-denominated settlements, and one for euro-denominated settlements, but in order for the financial system to function with greater stability, I think we should be considering the creation of an additional reserve currency. This idea has already been put forward by the Russian leadership, and China.
So I don't know whether the EU will collapse and fall apart, or the Eurozone disappear. It is in our interests for that zone to function. I think that the EU also understands this and will apply the maximum efforts they can, to prevent its demise.
EIR: As we come to the 50th anniversary of the accords between de Gaulle and Adenauer, there is also an impulse within Europe for a return to national currencies with a fixed exchange-rate system.
Makey: I think that if we proceed from the need for the world economy to function with stability, we should not allow the disappearance of the dollar system or the breakup of the Eurozone.
Banking and Crime
EIR: To continue this question of a stable, functioning world system: Precisely because of the bankruptcy of the Eurozone, and of the euro, and of the dollar in the way that it is handled under the Federal Reserve with its printing-presses, the question of how to finance real development, as opposed to only bailing out speculators at the banks, is begging to be very high on the world agenda.
Some of the people working, for example, around the Customs Union, such as [Russian] Academician Sergei Glazyev, have made a strong argument that it's crazy to say that monetary emission [in Russia] can only be done against dollar revenues. He gave the example that there could be so-called Central Bank refinancing, at low interest rates, earmarked for specific infrastructure projects. For the implementation of transportation corridors, and the possibility of Belarus, Russia, and Kazakstan participating in them, that looks like the beginning of an alternative to what is going on now, which is that these necessary projects are being starved for funds, because somebody is waiting for the money to come from Cyprus, from the Bahamas, from the offshores, or from London.
This is related to something else we would like to ask you about the drug-trafficking question. Victor Ivanov, the head of Russia's Federal Narcotics Control Service, has given a number of speeches during the last six months, in which he demonstrated what you referred to earlier: the relationship between globalization and the drug trade, in particular, in banking. He showed that the financial bubble in the banks—these huge so-called assets—depends on drug money flows. And he proposed the idea that, in order to get rid of the dope trade, it was necessary to completely change the banking system in the world, put an end to money-laundering.
Thus, the questions of "Where will the money come from for the radical modernization?" and "How do we stop the globalization-speculation from promoting crime and the drug money flows?"—come together, with the idea of a completely new financial system, based on real-economy principles.
Makey: Here again, you have touched on a global topic, which requires very deep conceptualization. And this should happen, inclusively, at the United Nations.
For us, economic modernization is a strategic goal. Each of our enterprises is currently developing a modernization plan, with specific implementation measures.
For modernization, we need to talk about credit, and borrowing, and investment. And these need to be real investments, not ones based on some castles in the air or rash miscalculations. We have nearly completed the modernization of the agroindustrial complex. Now we are turning our main attention to the modernization of our industrial enterprises.
Therefore, we are very concerned about statements to the effect that yet another financial crisis is possible in the near future. Because a crisis is absolutely bad for us and we have no use for it.
EIR: It's already happening.
Makey: I agree. Therefore it is the task of economists specializing in this area, to develop some kind of joint approaches and methods for counteracting this future financial and economic crisis. Because it is not in the interest of any country: not of Belarus, not of our allies, and not of any country in the world.
Indeed there are a great number of problems in the banking system, relatively transparent though it might appear to be. This is probably less the case for our banks, because our National Bank exercises tight control over the banking system of Belarus. But, as far as I remember, there were certain complaints about Barclay's Bank.
EIR: About all of them! The "big 14" of the City of London, etc., were caught in those criminal operations [of the so-called LIBOR scandal].
Makey: Therefore it probably should be an objective of the United Nations to develop some specific countermeasures, to make the banking system operate transparently and in a normal fashion, and promote the steady progress of the world economy. I agree with how you posed the situation.
And, of course, this will likely be difficult, but probably both the market economists and the apologists of the former socialist economy will have to give up their long-established views. Truth is likely somewhere in between. We need to search for some kind of new way of addressing these problems.
Approaches that Worked
EIR: And to revive some old ways. We emphasize the tradition we had earlier in the United States with Alexander Hamilton, and then in the 19th Century, the ideas of Friedrich List, and Count Witte, and Dmitri Mendeleyev; and from the 20th Century, such examples as [Franklin] Roosevelt, or the post-war German economic recovery. I understand you have expertise on Germany, so you know about the role of the Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau [Reconstruction Credit Corporation]. These are very instructive examples, because these approaches worked.
Makey: One absolutely must not reject methods and instruments that have worked in the past. Quite the contrary, they should be used, probably adapting them to the new conditions we have today.
The reason we are reproached by many partisans of a market-economic approach, is that we also are trying, taking into account past experience, to move ahead very carefully and cautiously, based on the principle of "Do no harm." Do no harm to our own people, but act to maintain a normal standard of living for them. And so it cannot be our top priority to prove to somebody that we are the biggest advocates of a market economy. We are acting not in order to be evaluated by somebody else, but for the purpose of improving the economy in the interests of our own people.
And the methods and instruments you mentioned as the ones that should be adopted from the past: of course they will be of use.
EIR: If there's anything more that you would like to say about your vision of this UNGA session or of the future of Belarus, please do.
Makey: You will hear my speech on Oct. 1. We do not want to get stuck, as some do, on our own strictly national interests or on seeking to receive dividends of some sort for Belarus. We want to talk about what is urgent for the international community as a whole.
EIR: Thank you.
 "Our main priority in this realm is human trafficking. Belarus is the chair of the Group of Friends United against Trafficking in Persons, which was established on the initiative of Belarus in 2010. I shall preside over its Third Ministerial Meeting, which we expect to be attended by the heads of relevant UN agencies. A declaration will be issued, outlining priorities in this area for the next year. Belarus plans to do something more on human trafficking during this session. We want to sponsor a resolution called Improving the Coordination of Efforts against Trafficking in Persons, since the most recent such UNGA resolution dates from 2009. Clearly, important developments have occurred in this area since then. It is only natural to reflect them properly in a new resolution.
"Belarus proposed the Global Partnership against Slavery and Human Trafficking in 2005, and it has been under implementation since then. We can forge such partnerships in many other areas: energy, crime, and food security, to begin."
 "Relations between Belarus and the EU are far from what we would like to see, and from what would truly be of use to the European Union itself. Today, when the financial and economic crisis means that all Europe should unite efforts, and when the ambitious Eurasian integration project, the Eurasian Union, is developing adjacent to the EU, the stubborn persistence of stereotypes in the 'Belarus policy' of Brussels is surprising.
"We see eye to eye with the EU regarding the ultimate goal of our reforms: to strengthen Belarus as a modern, responsible, democratic European nation. But we do not aspire to integration into the EU, and we are bound by no obligations or timetables in that regard. Therefore, the EU has no right to dictate the rate or sequence of our reforms. It took Europe itself decades to reach its modern democratic form of organization, through an experience of wars, privations, and harsh laws, not bending to suit somebody else's opinion, but being guided only by its own security and development interests.
"Despite the restrictions imposed on us by Brussels, most of our channels of practical cooperation on matters of mutual interest, both bilateral cooperation with EU members, and with the European Union as a whole, remain open (in the areas of transportation, energy, border protection, the environment, etc.). We continue to play an active part in the Eastern Partnership [a NATO program for six East Central European and South Caucasus countries, formerly within the Soviet Union—ed.].
"Our trade and economic cooperation with the EU is growing rapidly. It is now growing at rates comparable to what we had in 2008, before the crisis. Twenty-seven percent of our foreign trade, including 38% of Belarusian exports, are with the EU. Six EU countries—the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Great Britain, Latvia, and Italy—are among the top ten trade partners of Belarus."
 Two oil refineries, built in the Soviet period, are among Belarus's flagship industrial plants, biggest employers, and major export-revenue earners.—EIR note.
 "The Program for the Economic Development of the Republic of Belarus in 2011-2015 defines the national economic development priorities. First and foremost comes the improvement of the welfare and living standards of the population on the basis of improving socioeconomic relations, innovation-based development, and rising competitiveness of the national economy.
"A set of objectives for significantly building up our economic potential has been defined: radical modernization, attraction of investment, higher income for the population, improved managerial efficiency, currency stability, import substitution, and the development of science and innovations, the agro-industrial complex, and housing construction. Implementation of these objectives will be done through structural reforms in all sectors of the economy, with the creation of new science-intensive, high-technology manufactures and an effective national innovation system.
"Modernization, in turn, requires foreign investment. Belarus is open to developing cooperation with leading transnational and investment companies and is interested in attracting strategic investors. Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to inform and invite American businesspeople to take part in the Belarus Investment Forum, being held in Minsk on Nov. 15-16, 2012."