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Foreign Policy Research Institute

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The absorption of Belarus by Russia was lauched in Sochi

The Presidents of Belarus and Russia Alexander Lukashenko and Vladimir Putin discussed future relations between the two countries after the change of presidents. This was announced on Friday, February 15, by a Belarusian leader following talks with a Russian counterpart in Sochi, TASS reported. Lukashenko also noted that the topic of sovereignty of Russia and Belarus "is not even discussed, there are two states". At the same time, he pointed out that Minsk is ready to go as far as Moscow is ready in the integration process. In addition, as the head of Belarus said, the topic of the tax maneuver with Putin was not discussed. "It (problem), really, exists, but I tell you exceptionally sincere and honestly say and the President (Putin) will confirm, in my opinion that we did not even say this word in these three days",-he told journalists, answering a question, whether the decision has been made on the topic of tax maneuvers. In general, the President of Belarus doubted that this issue is the most important in Russian-Belarusian relations, noting that, there are other problems that need to be solved.[1]

The Kremlin carries out the operation in relation to Belarus – discounts on oil in exchange for a share of sovereignty. Olga Len writes in her blog that Alexander Lukashenko is required to transfer certain foreign-policy and foreign economic functions to the level of the Union State of Russia and Belarus. Now in 2019, we will see on the example of Belarus what could happen to Ukraine, if Viktor Yanukovych remained in power, there is no doubt that this was coming. According to Olga Len, the most surprising thing is that Belarusians are gradually preparing for the fact that they will not have a country. In Belarus, even the news of the Russian "First channel" are on the Belarusian National State TV. That is, Belarusians look at the world around them through the eyes of Russian propagandists. Under such circumstances, the question whether the Kremlin will be able to "bend" Alexander Lukashenko is a rhetorical question.

Alexey Venediktov, the editor-in-chief of the radio station "Echo of Moscow", said that Minsk may "pay" Moscow for the preferences received from the Kremlin by its own sovereignty. «One of the options for extending the powers of President Vladimir Putin may be unification, annexation, accession, Union with the Republic of Belarus. That's one of the options. Other are possible also», – he noted. Venediktov added that such "accession" can take place in the next few years. In particular, it can be timed to the elections to the State Duma of the Russian Federation. It is noted that the Cabinet of Ministers has established a working group on the integration of the two states. The corresponding order has already been signed by the head of the Russian government Dmitry Medvedev. In addition, Medvedev said that the relevant working group, which will deal with the absorption of Belarus, will be headed by the Minister of Economic Development of the Russian Federation Maxim Oreshkin.[2]

"I don't believe in military confrontation; it seems to me that Putin hopes to squeeze Lukashenko economically because the Belarusian President sits on the Russian "subsidies". Lukashenko as always tries to blackmail Putin with the fact that he will go to the West, and now he is trying to re-establish some relations with the EU," Russian oppositionist Pavel Shekhtman said in a comment to OBOZREVATEL. However, according to him, Europe's opportunities to support Belarus, in case of confrontation with Russia, are very limited. No one is going to allocate money for Minsk. "Lukashenko got himself into this situation. During his presidency, he talked about the unification, restoration of the Soviet Union, he pressed the Belarusian nationalists. He thought he’s cunning and will be able to fool Russian Federation and will force himself to keep under the pleasant rhetoric for Moscow. And Moscow says: "Let's unite now," - says Shekhtman, according to OBOZREVATEL.

According to the Russian oppositionist, Lukashenko still has a great hope to be supported by his power structures. In this case, he has more field for maneuvers. Another thing is that command of the Belarusian security forces - is personnel from Russia. As OBOZREVATEL informs: "There is dictatorship in Belarus, but the dictator had appointed pro-Soviet staff who can pressure nationalists, the question is when will be confrontation with Putin is unclear," he said.[3]

Although the annexation of Belarus by Russia in the near future is almost impossible, the vector of association still poses a threat to the region. The end of 2018 was distinguished by resonant events in the sphere of Belarusian-Russian relations. According to the Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Russia started the implementation of the provisions of Treaty on the Establishment of a Union State with the Republic of Belarus, reminding the President of Belarus of the commitments made back in 1999. A frank demonstration of Russia's intentions to the delayed implementation of the Treaty cannot but raise questions: how real is the probability of Russia’s accession of Belarus in 2019 and what consequences will it have for Ukraine and its neighbors?

The recent Russian offensive on Belarusian independence was apparently the part of the so-called "Crimean consensus" in Russian domestic policy: Putin's regime feeds the Russian population with foreign policy "victories" ("return" of Crimea, "defeat" of ISIL in Syria) building up imperial ambitions of Russians, while gaining loyalty and ratings. The accession of Belarus as a huge breakthrough in the accession of the "Russian world" with its propaganda effect could be the main success of the Kremlin in 2019 and to distract attention from economic and social problems. Unfortunately for Moscow, it is possible to carry out such a unilateral association only under force pressure. A significant obstacle to the plans of the Russians is still the permanent President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, who is absolutely not interested in reducing his personal power. And that is what will happen to his regime in the case of official "association" with Russia, and in fact subordination to the Kremlin. Therefore, Lukashenko, in his usual acute form, opposes the demands of the Russians, saying that he will not allow the absorption of Belarus by Russia. But given the dependence of Belarus on Russia, economic in particular, it is unlikely to stop Russia's expansionist intentions.