10/28/2021, 09.23
RUSSIA- BELARUS
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Union between Moscow and Minsk at risk

by Vladimir Rozanskij

The closure of the integration process between the two countries could be halted. The Russians blame their neighbours for the migration crisis. Before covering Belarus' debts, Putin wants the ouster of Lukašenko.

 

 

Moscow (AsiaNews) - In November Belarus and the Russian Federation scheduled the conclusion of agreements for their union. The deadline is now just over a week away, but the two governments have not yet made any official announcements on the issue. As has been the case in the past, integration seems to be subject to several contradictions, and the signing of the agreement could be delayed again.

On November 4, the feast of Russian National Unity, the Supreme State Council of the two countries, which unites parliamentarians and delegates from Minsk and Moscow, should meet, as agreed after the last meeting between Aleksandr Lukašenko and Vladimir Putin on September 9. On that occasion, the two leaders stipulated 28 programs of economic integration.

After the confirmation of the scheduled appointments at the end of September, the meetings between the two parties have undergone various limitations due to the worsening of the epidemiological situation in the respective countries. Russia is practically blocked by a new lockdown. Putin has decreed the suspension of working activities for the entire first week of November, which has not caused a stir: Russian November holidays are usually accompanied by several days of "bridge", such as those in May for the Victory Day.

Behind the health restrictions, however, there seem to be several reasons for misunderstanding between the two partners, culminating in President Lukashenko'soffensive remarks made to the pro-, Telegram channel's "Letters to the Daughter" program,  in which he described his counterpart as "an old man with botox" instead of the usual "oriental brother". The crude denigration of the Russian president seems to be a reprisal for Russian television's criticism of Lukašenko for the migration crisis created at the Belarusian border, although the next day from presidential sources in Minsk the version was spread that "Biden, and not Putin, was meant."

The little information war is just a tail end of a series of mutual spite in recent weeks, with Putin's absence at the Minsk summit of the Union of Independent Countries, a post-Soviet structure that Lukašenko particularly cares about because of the Eurasian ties it guarantees him. The Belarusian president then refused to receive Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov on a visit to Belarus.

Not only that. The last meeting between the delegations of the two Defense Ministries ended with the publication of two divergent communiqués: the Russian Minister Sergej Šojgu announced the opening of two Moscow military facilities on Belarusian territory; the Belarusian counterpart specified that the issue was only discussed. A poll circulated in Russia stated that Lukašenko is not loved by his fellow citizens, and the agreement on gas supplies also remained on the high seas.

Despite all of Lukašenko's reassurances, Moscow seems to be upset by Belarusian positions on the migration crisis, which do not help Minsk's internal stability. The Belarusian "batka" (godfather) is no stranger to similar maneuvers when faced with the prospect of submitting definitively to Moscow, after bombastic announcements of historic and glorious union. The risk of the economic collapse of Belarus forces it to remain within the game of union, but Russia does not only intend to take on Lukašenko's debts.

It is becoming increasingly evident that the fundamental condition for the agreement between the two countries is the removal of Lukashenko, who reacts in an unhinged manner having no intention of stepping aside. Moscow keeps its purse strings tight, granting the unruly partner just enough credits to stay afloat, and postponing the big plans to the final solution, which at this point could be postponed to a future date.

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