Russia is preparing to swallow Belarus. Moscow is demanding increasingly closer integration from Minsk as part of the Union State, and giving energy and financial assistance in exchange. This was discussed in an article by the Polish news outlet Rzeczpospolita.
Several days ago, the presidents of Russia and Belarus, Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko, met in Minsk to discuss the foundations of the Union State.
“We are on the front line. If we don’t hold out for the next few years, we will fall apart. And this will mean that we will have to become part of another state, otherwise we will be walked all over,” Lukashenko said after the meeting.
According to Russian analysts, at the presidents’ next meeting in Sochi, Putin plans to hear Lukashenko’s specific plans on further integration.
“Lukashenko spoke about economic problems. He asked Russia to finance some of Belarus’s foreign debt. Putin responded that everything can be taken care of, but only if concrete steps are taken towards further integration. Otherwise, without Russia’s economic assistance, Belarus’s statehood has no chance of continuing to exist,” the article states.
The so-called Union State emerged in 1997. The union’s statute was signed by then presidents of Russia and Belarus, Boris Yeltsin and Alexander Lukashenko. Russian and Belarusian experts believe that at the time Lukashenko hoped eventually to replace Yeltsin. However, the integration came to a halt when Putin came to power in Russia.
“The Union State will have a continuation. Russia is not saying it out loud, but work is underway. It isn’t easy to have a conversation with Lukashenko, he blocks many things. At some stage in Ukraine, everything began with the glorification of Stepan Bandera and Roman Shukhevych. Similar symptoms of this illness have been observed in Belarus too. Its state system has weakened, and thanks to this, the nationalists have begun to look for national awareness,” explained Alexey Mukhin, head of the pro-Russian Political Information Center.
It is also symbolic that Russian Ambassador to Minsk Alexander Surikov has finished his term, the Polish article adds. Several days ago, Surikov proposed that Russian border guards should be placed on Belarus’s border with the EU, and said that Belarus should sell Russia its gas supply systems.
The new ambassador to Minsk will be Mikhail Babich, who was head of the Chechen government at the start of the 2000s, and is called “Putin’s special assignment envoy”. Previously, Ukraine declined to receive Babich as Russia’s ambassador.
“In Minsk he will seek to have a permanent military base deployed in Belarus, something Lukashenko rejected in 2015. Russia hasn’t come to terms with this. It is doing all it can to make Belarus dependent on it, and to deprive it of any space to manoeuvre,” observed Belarusian political scientist Pavel Usov.
At the start of summer 2018, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko threatened to close the border with Russia.