Russia and Belarus: soon inseparable?

After years of negotiations, Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenka have adopted the 28 'Union Programmes' in Moscow, which are intended to promote the harmonisation of their two countries' economic and financial policies. Commentators see this as a first step towards the creation of a joint state - but say that it is perhaps still too early to attach too much importance to the idea.

Open/close all quotes
Dziennik Gazeta Prawna (PL) /

Just declarations of intent for now

Any potential unification process is still only in the earliest stages, Dziennik Gazeta Prawna writes:

“Moscow's intentions are obvious: to tie the Belarusian economy to Russia in such a way that even a new government would have no room for manoeuvre after a change of power in Minsk. ... A tweet from the Polish prime minister's office two years ago, which became famous but was quickly deleted, spoke of the 'solemn signing of a declaration of intent expressing a will to cooperate while drawing up a preliminary feasibility study for a railway hub in Wrocław'. Lukashenka and Putin have gone a step further, but this is still only a 'declaration of intent to cooperate on the feasibility study'.”

15min (LT) /

The sabre dance goes on

Lukashenka may be dependent on Russia but the Kremlin cannot replace him that easily, political scientist Laurynas Jonavičius points out in 15min:

“Judging by previous experiences with negotiations between Russia and Belarus, it's fairly safe to say that this time, too, there will be procrastination until the last day and even the last minute (at least on Lukashenka's part). ... Regardless of how Lukashenka passes on his power, it's important for Russia to establish a set of certain formalities in case Belarus's new leaders call the logic and principles of the bilateral relationship into question. Until then, Lukashenka will continue his sabre dance. At least until November 4. But more likely for a few more years.”

Dserkalo Tyschnja (UA) /

Putin exploiting country's plight

Russia has now all but annexed Belarus, explains Vladimir Kravchenko, foreign policy observer for Dzerkalo Tyzhnia:

“Belarus has effectively become another federal district of Russia. ... The 'soft annexation' is taking place against the background of the international isolation of Minsk, repressive measures against Lukashenka's political opponents, the Russian-Belarusian offensive military and strategic exercises 'West-2021', and talks about the need to remove the country's neutrality from the Belarusian constitution. ... The risk for Ukraine is that with the economic incorporation of Belarus it is only a matter of time before Russia takes control of the Belarusian companies that supply us with products.”

Der Tagesspiegel (DE) /

Lukashenka has chosen Moscow

Belarus becoming part of Russia need not be official, writes the Tagesspiegel:

“The EU is not naive. It knew that the extension of sanctions faced Lukashenka with the choice between a change of course, new elections and rapprochement with the West or a dictatorial alliance with Putin. ... Lukashenka has chosen Moscow. He considers that the best option for staying in power. Putin has the real power in Belarus. That doesn't have to mean that the next step will be unification with Russia. Putin can leave Belarus formally independent while constantly showing Lukashenka just how dependent he is.”

Iswestija (RU) /

A product of Western pressure tactics

The West's sanctions have done a lot to bring the two states closer together, writes Izvestia:

“In the last year, on its own initiative, the West has done much to further integration through pressure, sanctions and inappropriate and often stupid comments. If the West prefers to conduct dialogue with exiled politicians who have no influence in the country and who enjoy only modest support among its population, then it has the right to do so. But Russia and Belarus are engaging in realpolitik and with this approach they have achieved unique results. In the West there was great concern that the heads of state would announce that the integration processes will be completed with the creation of a common state.”