Could RUSSIA and BELARUS unite?
Belarusian experts see a number of threats to national security, but note that the country’s elite is not interested in joining Russia
One of the most discussed foreign policy topics at the end of last year was the possible absorption of Belarus by Russia through the creation of the so-called “union state”.
And, apparently, this plot has every chance to remain in the spotlight for the foreseeable future. In any case, in the first days of 2019, several new publications appeared about the “accession” of Belarus to the Russian Federation according to the “Crimean scenario”. Thus, “Bloomberg” published an article entitled “Putin’s Pension Plan Depends on Belarus”. This article, reprinted on the Belorussky Partizan website, states that retirement in 2024 is an extremely undesirable option for a Russian: “Putin can never be sure of any guarantees of personal safety that could be provided by his successor.”.
At the same time, the inclusion of Belarus in Russia within the framework of the “union state” that exists only on paper, brings obvious benefits to Putin. For example: “peaceful reunification with Belarusians can also be used as compensation to Russians for their recent break with the once-friendly Ukraine,” notes the author of the article in Bloomberg..
And the American newspaper “Washington Post” recently published an article by Anne Applebaum “Why the world should pay attention to Putin’s plan for Belarus”. Here, in particular, it says: “Theoretically, the two countries are already part of the so-called“ Union State of Belarus and Russia ”, and both countries are conducting joint military exercises. But after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2014, Lukashenko tried to defend his independence and project a different image of his country, sometimes ignoring Russia’s requests, pursuing a somewhat independent foreign policy. “.
Ann Applebaum goes on to look at the “moderate” model for the takeover of a smaller state by a larger state, and an “extreme version” involving “the announcement of a new political entity ruled by a single president, presumably one whose name begins with a” B “.
The author of the article in the Washington Post has no special illusions about the current Belarusian president: “Lukashenka has remained in power all these decades, because he has a good sense of where the wind is blowing from. If Russia makes him an offer that he cannot refuse, he will not resist “.
At the end of the article, Ann Applebaum warns that if the West shows indifference to Russia’s expansionist aspirations, then Moscow may well again become “the capital of a full-fledged empire that has swallowed many countries.”.
Factor of the Belarusian Cossacks and temples of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate in military units
The correspondent of the Russian service “Voice of America” tried to find out how they feel about the possible entry into Russia in Belarus itself.
According to an independent political analyst Roman Yakovlevsky, there is practically no civil society in Belarus now. “At the ordinary level, this topic is touched upon, but I would not say that it is being discussed very widely,” the expert notes..
At the same time, according to him, the situation is developing quite dynamically: “Just the other day, Russian Ambassador to Belarus Mikhail Babich, who is also Putin’s special representative for trade and economic issues, visited the Zhirovichi Monastery. And he said that henceforth the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Belarus will provide all the necessary assistance to this monastery. And this can be understood as strengthening the influence of Russia on the entire Belarusian exarchate, as an integral part of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, “Roman Yakovlevsky emphasizes..
In addition to the noticeable revival of the ROC MP in Belarus, the interlocutor of the Voice of America notes the activation of the so-called Belarusian Cossacks. “We have a corresponding public association officially registered. Its head is Nikolai Ulakhovich, who was even registered as a presidential candidate in Belarus. Last year, a unification congress of the Russian Cossacks took place, where Belarusians were present as guests. By the way, the supreme chieftain of the Russian Cossacks is approved by Putin’s decree. And since a significant part of these “guys” are retired military men, their vertical subordination to the Kremlin certainly causes concern here, ”the Belarusian political analyst points out..
Mentioning that on the territory of the military units of the Belarusian army there are churches of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate, and the head of the Belarusian Orthodox Church is a citizen of the Russian Federation, Roman Yakovlevsky concludes: “Personally, I believe that the declared“ Union State of Russia and Belarus is a chimera ”. But at the same time, all the prerequisites for the creation of a new union state have already been spelled out and approved by the parliaments of the two countries “.
Continuation of the “peace, friendship, chewing gum” policy in exchange for cheap energy resources
Head of the Mises Research Center Yaroslav Romanchuk believes that they should protect the state sovereignty of Belarus. First of all, the citizens of this country themselves. “If Belarusians do not mobilize and do not understand that independence is an absolute value, then no external opinions, injections, interventions and so on will help. Therefore, first of all, we are talking about raising the consciousness of Belarusians in case of danger to such a level that it would not even occur to the Kremlin, Gazprom or Putin to start political projects that could limit the sovereignty of our country ”, – said Romanchuk in an interview with the correspondent of the Russian service “Voice of America”.
Turning to the personality of the President of Belarus, the expert recalled that Lukashenka “played in various integration projects” for more than 20 years. Moreover, first of all, it was not the population of the country that was interested in these projects, but Belarusian officials and Kremlin monopolists who used the Russian budget for their own benefit. “Due to the fact that there were many words, but practically no action, we do not even have a full-fledged free trade zone with Russia, which is absurd for neighboring countries with a rather serious mutual penetration of production cycles and processes,” Romanchuk believes..
According to observers, in the late 90s, Alexander Lukashenko hoped to join the Russian political elite, but with the coming to power of Putin, all integration processes acquired an inertial character. “Of course, Lukashenka signed the agreement to which Medvedev and Putin are constantly referring, but this document did not spell out the practice of its implementation. So the Union State is an even looser structure than the CIS. The creation of supranational bodies does not follow from this document, decision-making mechanisms are not spelled out in it, and practically nothing is agreed at all. And if the Kremlin stipulates first the creation of supranational bodies, and then certain schemes for the supply of energy resources, this, of course, can be considered energy blackmail, “he continues..
Yaroslav Romanchuk also said that in recent days several sociological polls have been conducted in the republic regarding the possible merger of the country with Russia. “About 70% are in favor of preserving sovereignty, about 15% are for becoming part of Russia, and the rest would like to continue this“ plot ”with the Union State: give us cheap energy resources, and we will continue to promise you peace, friendship, gum.
Moreover, I know the mood of the national elite – by the government, by officials, by big business – everyone is categorically against entering Russia either by six regions or by a single federal district. And whether Lukashenka wanted it or not, over 25 years a clear idea has been formed in Belarus that we must be independent and build our relations with neighboring countries on the basis of friendship and free trade. There is no free trade now, there is friendship, but I believe that in this situation, the personal power of Alexander Lukashenko coincides with the imperative of preserving the country’s independence.
Therefore, we can accuse him of not living up to all our expectations, not diversifying the economy. But today I see neither from his side, nor from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Security Council, the government, any steps that would mean that these people are ready to subscribe to the Kremlin’s scenario, ”concludes Yaroslav Romanchuk.