Another chapter in the Belarusian-Russian integration process
Interview with Anna Maria Dyner on the regional context of the upcoming meeting between presidents Vladimir Putin and Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Interviewer: Iwona Reichardt.
IWONA REICHARDT: President Lukashenka faces a difficult meeting with Vladimir Putin on Sunday December 8th. What result could we expect from these talks?
ANNA MARIA DYNER: There are a few reasons why predicting an outcome of the upcoming meeting is difficult. First of all, we aren’t sure if the integration road map between Belarus and Russia will be signed on December 8th. During the last parliamentary elections in Belarus Alyaksandr Lukashenka claimed that if Belarusian interests aren’t guaranteed (mostly in relation to cheaper energy commodities, such as oil and the creation of a unified energy market), he won’t sign this document. As a matter of fact, just a few days ago some media outlets reported that the two countries are still negotiating about a third of the issues. Thus, even if they sign the documents, it still doesn’t mean that they will integrate. The Union State Treaty that was signed 20 years ago and still hasn’t been implemented.
What could be the consequences of the Sunday meeting for the rest of the region? Let’s start with Poland…
Belarus is already dependent on Russia politically, and even more so militarily and economically. A deepening of the integration could lead to a more difficult cooperation with Belarus. At the same time, the Belarusian regime will try to retain some degree of independence. This is in the interest of other countries in the region – including Poland. Much will depend on how far the integration between Belarus and Russia will go and what concessions they are ready to make to each other.
What about Ukraine?
An increasingly Russia-dependent Belarus will make the
Ukrainian authorities less trusting of its regime and raise questions with
regards to whose opinion they really represent. So far Minsk has featured as a
good place for talks like the Normandy format. Lukashenka has based his foreign
policy on that. Thus, Ukraine might limit its contacts and co-operation with
And what could further integration between Belarus and Russia mean for the Baltic states?
This integration would have similar consequences for the Baltic states as the rest of the countries in the region. It will raise their perception of a military threat. At the same time Lithuania and Latvia want to develop their trade relations with Belarus. Both countries are trying to get Belarus to export their goods through their ports.
Why has this process gathered speed right now?
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev spoke about the need to push forward on Belarus’s integration with Russia already a year ago. For the Kremlin this is a chance to score a victory on the international stage (without the need of using armed forces for once). However, contrary to Russian expectations, this will not be an easy process where Belarus unconditionally agrees to all Russian suggestions.
Anna Maria Dyner works at the Polish Institute of International Affairs (PISM).
Iwona Reichardt is the deputy editor-in-chief of New Eastern Europe.