Western governments are worried that Belarus’s possible absorption by Russia would alter Europe’s balance of power. At the same time, getting too close to Minsk could provoke Russian intervention, the Wall Street Journal authour believes.
Support and fears
According to WSJ, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko is resisting Moscow’s demands to further integrate the two countries into a Union State. He has rejected to set up Russian military bases in Belarus and stayed neutral on the war in Ukraine, where the Western-backed government is fighting against Russia and its proxy forces.
It also cited Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz of Poland, a member of NATO and the EU that borders Belarus, who said: “The situation is serious in the sense that Russia may really force them to unite. They are under pressure and now it is the time for the European Union, for Poland, other countries, to support their sovereignty.”
While Poland’s foreign minister stressed that keeping Belarus independent must take priority, ex U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense Alexander Vershbow, noted that “nobody has any illusions they will strike a course like Ukraine or Georgia.”
He also stated that if Belarus provides any support to Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence complicating Russian calculations, this won’t be insignificant. However, “we should be careful not to appear to be embracing them so closely that it’s counterproductive and triggers a nasty Russian response,” Vershbow added.
The Union State Treaty audit
Recall that last year December, Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said that Russia was ready to keep building the Union State in terms with the Treaty on the Union State signed in 1999. According to the treaty, countries should have a single currency, a single court, a single customs. It also provided for further steps in integration – a single parliament and one president.
On 25 December 2018, Presidents of Belarus and Russia agreed on creating a Russian-Belarusian working group to resolves aspects of integration and controversial issues. In July, Alexander Lukashenko called on Russia President Vladimir Putin to resolve all disputes and develop action strategies for integration by December 8, to mark the 20th anniversary of the Union Treaty.
Officially, the “Program of actions of Belarus and Russia to implement the provisions of the agreement on the creation of the Union State” has not yet been published. Moscow and Minsk did not comment essentially on the integration plan. Russian media reported that, according to the integration plan, Russia and Belarus are preparing to create a single Tax Code and a single Civil Code.
Besides, the sides are reportedly will introduce a single foreign trade regime, a unified account of property, unified banking supervision with two central banks. In addition, the document provides for the creation of a single regulator of the markets for oil, gas, electricity and energy and harmonized government control of the industries.
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Alexander Lukashenko’s spokeswoman Natalya Eismont said that any process is based on the thesis of independence of Belarus and Russia. In his letter, Belarus Prime Minister of Belarus Sergey Rumas also commented on the situation, saying that the work of governments covers exclusively the economic part of the treaty on the Union State.
During a conversation with Ukrainian media at the end of September, the President of Belarus also said that the integration project is not threatening the sovereignty of Belarus. On 5 November, Belarusian Prime Minister Sergei Rumas announced that the draft roadmaps will be presented to the presidents of Belarus and Russia by 1 December.