Staunton, February 15 – Relations between Moscow and the countries of Central Asia reflect efforts to find a balance among the desires of the Central Asian countries to receive the transfer payments from migrant workers in Russia, the increasing xenophobia among Russians toward such gastarbeiters, and Moscow’s interest in integrating these countries under itself.
That balancing act has long been recognized and much discussed, but now the Russian government appears to be facing another “migrant” question, one with potentially more serious consequences for the future of its bilateral relations with the country Russia views as its closest and most integrated partner: Belarus.
In an article in yesterday’s “Nezavisimaya gazeta,” Anton Khodasevich who is a special correspondent for that Moscow newspaper in Mensk, says that Belarusian officials are very much alarmed by the brain drain out of their country into the Russian Federation and want to find a way to reverse it (ng.ru/cis/2014-02-14/7_belorussia.html).
Marianna Shchetkina, Belarusian labor minister, suggested this week that firms in her country must do more to stem the tide. She cited official statistics showing that 5,000 to 7,000 Belarusians are leaving ever year to work abroad, most often to Russia, but conceded that these statistics do not include many who go independently, admitting there may be 100,000 Belarusians, many of them highly skilled, working in Russia.