Belarus-Russia integration: What’s in it for Kremlin? (ENG video)

Prime Ministers Syarhei Rumas and Dmitry Medvedev will hold a meeting in Sochi on Friday, the press service of the Belarusian government reports. The goal is to coordinate the approval of road maps for the deepening of Belarus-Russia integration. Moreover, Alyaksandr Lukashenka and Vladimir Putin are expected to sign a new integration plan on December, 8.

“It may even be a declarative document of very general nature that needs to be shown to the public so that they could prove they are working towards integration,” Katsyaryna Shmatsina, a political analyst at the Belarusian Iinstitute for Strategic Studies, told Belsat.

Focusing on December, 8 is not accidental. On this day 20 years ago, presidents Lukashenka and Yeltsin signed a treaty establishing the Union State. However, it has not been materialized. These days, a victory in the integration field would help the Kremlin achieve other ambitions.

“On December 9, Paris will host the Normandy format talks about the situation in the east of Ukraine. And Moscow counts on making significant strides there,” Alex Kokcharov, an analyst at the London-based IHS Markit, said.

In 1999, Belarus and Russia agreed on creating a single constitution, currency, court and parliament, on jointly defending themselves, implementing diplomacy and economic policy. Vladimir Putin even proposed to hold the joint presidential elections in 2004. According to the expert, the so-called Year 2024 Problem may be the reason for breathing new life into the union treaty.

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“This is the time when the current presidential term of Vladimir Putin is coming to an end, and it is clear they are thinking hard about how to extend it,” Kokcharov added.

Only 35% of Russians want to Belarus’ and Russia’s becoming one state, Russian Public Opinion Research Center reported in April. Belsat TV asked the residents of Moscow whether the countries should get united to that degree.

“Do you think we are living separately?”

“These are two fraternal countries. I wish we were back in the USSR! “

“The more friendly we are. the better the situation is! If all republics were together, it would be good! Lukashenka is cunning, I like it, he should be so for the sake of his republic, but he offends Putin.”

“We may come together or break up, but the two countries should be separate!”

Minsk highlights that the expected integration is not political, but economic. At the same time, they have never had its plan published. Only the Russian newspaper Kommersant reports about the negotiations, citing its own sources. According to the media outlet, Moscow is seeking to have a single tax code, unite the two customs union and pursue a single energy policy. The Kremlin also wants Minsk to an embargo on the import of food products from the EU.

“As far as economic integration is concerned, it never works without political integration, i.e. the transfer of part of sovereignty to supranational bodies,” Katsyaryna Shmatsina stressed.

Alyaksandr Lukashenka has repeatedly stated that there will be no integration without Russia’s compensation for the tax maneuver. Is Moscow ready to pay almost $6 bn? According to the Belarusian side, it is the very amount that it may lose by 2025.

“From year to year, Belarus’ wants are growing, and now Russia is not in a fit financial state to continue supporting the economic model built by Lukashenka,” Moscow-based political analyst Dmitry Bolkunets believes.

The expert does not rule out that Alyaksandr Lukashenka might back off from signing the announced documents on December, 8. But, in his opinion, Moscow has enough patience and leverage to strong-arm Minsk into the yearned-for integration.

New information about integration with Russia

Alyaksandr Papko, Belsat TV

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