With an economy teetering on the brink of collapse and a nervous population standing in hours-long lines to buy foreign currency or gold, Minsk is going hat in hand to Moscow seeking relief.By "selling off" Russia will not mean open privatization. After all, the equivalent of those industries are hardly private in Russia itself.
The open question is: What price will Russia demand for bailing out Belarus and its authoritarian leader, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka?
Russia has long been pushing Minsk to sell off key state assets including oil refineries, chemical plants, oil and gas pipelines, and machinery plants. In addition, Moscow has been calling for Belarus to open its markets to Russian goods, tearing down barriers that exist despite the fact that the two countries are members of a unified customs zone.
Two big questions here: can Russia afford to bail out Belarus for some nebulous benefits in the future and, secondly, does the Kremlin really want to tie the unpredictable Lukashenka to Russia?