The issue of the international land border checkpoint – or, rather, its absence – between Belarus and Russia has appeared on the news several times lately. Both countries bring it up but neither side voices concrete suggestions.
A border security expert explains why the two countries need to resolve the issue of international traffic.
Foreign tourists and investors cannot enter Russia through the Smolensk region which is bad for the region’s economy, the Russian side admits. In particular, the Russian Prime Minister and the Governor of the Smolensk region discussed the possibility of solving it last week.
According to the officials, 75% of European cargos to Russia and 35% of Russian cargos to Europe transit through the region.
However, the suggestion has remained inside Russia so far. The opening an international checkpoint on the border between the Smolensk region and Belarus has not been discussed by Russians with their Belarusian colleagues, the Belarusian Border Committee spokesman told the media.
From the point of view of the Belarusian side, there are no decisions taken in this regard.
In October the problem had been brought up in the Belarusian parliament. The Head Of State Border Committee said the Belarusian side sees no necessity in the international border checkpoint with Russia.
It negatively affects both sides, says expert
A border security expert Alexander Tishchenko believes that the impossibility for foreigners to cross the land border negatively affects both countries.
“If a citizen of Lithuania or Poland wants to drive from Belarus to Russia, they have to use the checkpoints at the Russian border with Estonia or the Russian border with Ukraine,” Tishchenko says.
Likewise, foreigners can not use buses and trains to travel between Belarus to Russia.
This results in lower transit through Belarus since it is inconvenient for passengers and cargos. Which, in turn, affects the Russian regions neighboring Belarus, making the Smolensk and Bryansk regions less attractive for them.
When did the problem pop up
In autumn that year the Russian side declared the introduction of temporary border posts with Belarus starting spring 2018. Russia explained it with the concerns regarding the visa-free entry for citizens of 80 countries previously established by Belarus.