Samantha de Bendern is a researcher specializing in Russia Chatham Housethink tank of British international relations.
As early as 1996, Belarus and Russia, two former Soviet republics, established strong political ties. They signed an agreement in 1997 to deepen their trade relationship through a customs and currency union, convergence of national legal systems and a common fight against crime.
In 1999, another treaty established the highest authority of the Union, consisting of the presidents of the two countries, the prime ministers and the presidents of the chambers, the accounting chamber and the bicameral parliament. It is assumed that the institutional foundations will one day lead to the merging of the two states into a federal entity. This Thursday, April 6, Alexander Lukashenko and Vladimir Putin will meet to discuss the deepening of this union.
THE: FIGARO: – Russia has always been interested in its Belarusian neighbor, despite the collapse of the Soviet empire. It is the imperialist desire to revive the USSR.
Samantha DE BENDERN. – In 1991, when the Commonwealth of Independent States (a confederation of most of the former Soviet republics) was formed, Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus instead expressed their desire to become independent from the USSR. In 1994, Alexander Lukashenko was elected president of Belarus, elected on a program combining the fight against corruption and partial reintegration with Russia. He told himself that the longing for the USSR and the horror of the brutal capitalism suffered in Russia could be a profitable electoral strategy.
This desire for rapprochement between the two countries was not discouraged by Russia, but it was not a priority for it. It was a joke then. if Lukashenko wants a union of two countries, it is to take the place of Boris Yeltsin. There was definitely some truth behind the humor. When Putin came to power, Lukashenko felt that Russia would gain the upper hand in such a union, and began a kind of dance of ambivalence about the union. And today he is completely trapped.
What is Russia’s interest behind this union?
The Kremlin wants to control as much territory as possible in what it considers to be close abroad. Belarus is a strategic country between the West and Russia because it is a borderland, like Ukraine, Slavic, and its national identity is less developed than Ukraine’s because repression has been more severe. And most importantly, Moscow wants to avoid having a pro-European or pro-Western orientation in Minsk, because it sees it as a threat.
What are the main obstacles to the unification of the two states?
First of all, Alexander Lukashenko, who wants to remain the president of an independent state. It will not be easy for Moscow to get rid of it, because its opposition is quite pro-Western. Its failure, therefore, could lead to a direction contrary to Russia’s will. I think that integration can be slow and that Russia wants that integration. Because he feared the monster demonstrations of 2020 (against the controversial re-election of Alexander Lukashenko, editor’s note)
Alexander Lukashenko looks more in Vladimir Putin’s hands after the 2020 protests. What is his maneuverability against Moscow? ?
They are very weak. His visit to China also reflects the desire for independence, especially since the economic relations between the two countries are important. For me, this visit had several purposes, including preparation for Xi Jinping’s visit to Russia, but I believe that it was primarily intended to prepare a shelter for Lukashenko and his family in case of chaos. For the leader of Belarus, China is a very important ally and allows him to protect himself from the pressures of Vladimir Putin. But the installation of Russian nuclear weapons on the territory of Belarus was not well received in China. Because of this, Lukashenko’s room for maneuver has been significantly reduced. He is currently resisting sending his troops to Ukraine. But the pressure on Belarus is increasing and will continue to increase.
Can Belarus commit its army to the war in Ukraine?
The document of the Russian secret service, which predicts the control of Belarus by Russia in 2030, was revealed by Western journalists. Does the date seem credible to you?
It is very difficult to say, the authenticity of the document itself is difficult to confirm. The content of the document corresponds to the wishes of Vladimir Putin, but this integration may proceed very quickly, as if never to see the light of day. 2030 looks like an interesting horizon as Alexander Lukashenko ages. But in Russia, as in Belarus, the situation is so confused that even the end of the year cannot be predicted. If I had been shown this document before the start of the Ukrainian war, I would definitely say that this date is a likely horizon.
Source: Le Figaro
I am David Wyatt, a professional writer and journalist for Buna Times. I specialize in the world section of news coverage, where I bring to light stories and issues that affect us globally. As a graduate of Journalism, I have always had the passion to spread knowledge through writing.