Russia’s presidential elections in any case affect Belarusian state and society. Close economic and political ties between two countries resemble a sort of misalliance. Recently we can observe the growing Russia’s influence in Belarus both politically (considering strained relations of Belarus with the West) and economically (ever increasing and direct expansion of the Russian business in Belarus). Even though the results of the Russian elections are quite predictable, within the contexts of the Vladimir Putin’s electoral rhetoric one can say that the Kremlin will adopt the course on further facilitation of the integration on the post-Soviet area. Implementation of such policies directly concerns Belarus and its interests.
How do you assess the development of Belarus-Russia relations after Vladimir Putin’s victory in Russia’s presidential elections? Will Russia’s economic pressure on Belarus increase and is there a real threat of Belarus’ incorporation into Russia? – with these questions Belarusian Review referred to a Belarusian political analyst Pavel Usov.
Pavel Usov: Despite the fact that in the last two years we have witnessed unexpected political disturbances and overthrowss of seemingly immutable odious regimes in North Africa and the Middle East, we can hardly expect that the wave of revolution will reach Russia. Certainly, the Russian society is facing an unprecedented increase of protest sentiments; it feels the fatigue of being ruled by the FSB-clique, which erodes the country. At the same time, there are still many people who do not see any alternative to Putin; the political opposition is still very much divided, and its consolidation and formation of a united front can hardly be expected. In fact, in Russia the same processes is taking place as in Belarus; the society is tired and no longer wants to support the authorities, but still has no power to replace it.
Therefore, one should not expect an alternative candidate, who is not on the electoral list, to win elections in Russia. After Putin’s victory one can expect strengthening of central power’s pressure on civil society and opposition in order to prevent growth of their influence.
Beyond all doubts, Russia will continue its aggressive foreign policy. The Kremlin makes no secret of its plans to establish by 2015 a new empire, named Eurasian Economic Union. I would not be surprised if Putin decides to become the first chief of this association.
Belarus is the state most dependent on Russia, and that is why Moscow will most likely insist on the rapid adoption by Minsk of all union agreements up to the introduction of the single currency. Belarus already participates in six geostrategic projects with Russia and is not involved into any equivalent project with the EU. And if the Lukašenka’s regime still retains its domestic political sovereignty, it is very limited in its foreign policy manoeuvres.
Other most suitable subjects for integration are Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia. Negative trends taking place in Ukraine which, linked with its authorities’ attack on democratic freedoms, make this country a suitable target for Russian claims. In other words, the less freedom there is in Ukraine, the greater is Russia’s influence there.
It is possible that Russia will also include in this project the unrecognized republics of South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Transnistria.
It is difficult to predict the stability of the new geopolitical formation (EAU). However, if it is established, Belarus for at least a few more years will be deprived of any opportunity to become a democratic European state.
Mr. Pavel Usov is chairman of the board of the Belarusian Center for European Studies.
This article appeared in Belarusian Review, Vol. 24, No. 1.