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Strong friendship or takeover: Putin and Lukashenko deepen integration between Russia and Belarus

For the fifth time in a year, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko flew to Russia to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The talks in the Kremlin lasted more than three hours. As a result, the heads of state announced that they had agreed on 28 programs to deepen the integration of the two countries. The edition told in more detail with the BBC.

Photo: Shutterstock

What Putin and Lukashenko said

“I would like to note with satisfaction that all 28 programs have been coordinated,” Putin said at a press conference after the talks. We are talking about the unification of legislation in the economy, the creation of a single financial market, the harmonization of tax and customs legislation, currency regulation, a common payment space, pensions and social insurance.

“We agreed to conduct a common macroeconomic policy,” the Russian president summed up.

Among other things, they managed to agree on the "very sensitive", as Putin put it, the issue of Russian energy supplies. The price of natural gas for 2022 will remain at the level of this year. All details must be agreed by the governments of the two states.

We also discussed a common defense space. Putin himself recalled that the joint exercises Zapad-2021 have now begun. According to him, they "are not directed against anyone," but their implementation "is logical in conditions when other associations, such as NATO, are actively increasing their presence near the borders of the union state."

Lukashenka also spoke about the internal political situation in Belarus, "which has stabilized noticeably," Putin added. The Belarusian president himself began with the fact that the integration of Russia and Belarus, according to observers, “lost its pace,” but a year and a half ago, “we thought that there are probably enough schemes, we should implement specific plans”.

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“Vladimir Vladimirovich and I have made all the fundamental decisions,” Lukashenka said, referring to the problem of energy supplies and mutual social guarantees. - I want to ask the critics of our integration: where do you see the weight on the leg of the Russian Federation ?! There is nothing bad for the peoples of Russia and Belarus. Everything is designed for the growth of well-being ”.

The military-political union of the two countries has also "advanced far," Lukashenko continued and promised "to step up joint actions in response to threats."

"Regarding the talk about the fact that someone will absorb someone, we did not get sick with this disease," He remarked.

“If necessary, Putin and I will do it elementary! - Lukashenka exclaimed. “And if even closer military-political integration is needed, we will do it instantly, as soon as we feel the needs of people in Russia and Belarus.”

Concluding the conversation on this topic, Putin said that first “we need to create an economic basis”: “We have not yet discussed the issue of uniting the two states. Everything should come naturally. To do this, you need to grow up, as they say. "

Both presidents announced about the financial support of Belarus from Russia that by the end of 2022 the volume of loans will amount to about $ 630- $ 640 million. Lukashenko added that “we do not need new loans.”

"I asked you to drive up"

The governments of both countries announced in advance that Lukashenko and Putin would meet in the Kremlin on September 9 to agree on 28 union programs, as well as "other topical issues on the bilateral agenda and international issues."

“I asked you to drive up to take stock of what has been done recently,” Putin said at the beginning of the meeting. - We need to synchronize watches, to put points on some issues. And to enable governments to finalize some agreements in the near future. "

“Probably, we have less work left than at our previous meeting. They lasted a very long time: both five and eight hours. Because then we had to, we can say, how to pass the bulldozers in order to clear the way for government experts, ”Lukashenka added.

The talks in the Kremlin were held face to face without the participation of ministers. Lukashenka at the beginning of the meeting called the Russians and Belarusians "practically one people", descended from the same root.

Putin, in turn, said that the fifth meeting in a year was not connected with "any current political situation" in Russia and Belarus or with the elections to the Russian parliament.

Against the background of negotiations in the Kremlin in the Kaliningrad region, the opening ceremony of the Russian-Belarusian strategic exercises "West-2021" took place, which will be held within the next week on the territory of both countries and in the Baltic Sea. Several NATO countries have expressed concern about the start of an exercise of this magnitude.

28 programs

The union programs that Putin and Lukashenko were supposed to discuss were the result of negotiations of a working group created in 2018. It was headed by the then Minister of Economic Development of Russia Maxim Oreshkin and the former Minister of Economy of Belarus Dmitry Krutoy.

“We will discuss 28 programs. This is a lot. These are the main topics and directions of our cooperation, ”Lukashenka said at the beginning of the meeting.

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The content of these programs is unknown - the authorities of the two countries have not yet reported on any specifics on economic integration.

Frequent meetings of Lukashenka with Putin, taking place on Russian territory, are a consequence of the international isolation of Minsk, forced to reorient its exports to Russia.

On September 6, in Minsk, behind closed doors, a court sentenced Lukashenka's opponents Maria Kolesnikova and Maxim Znak. Kolesnikova received 11 years of imprisonment, the Sign - 10 years.

Concerns over Belarus' sovereignty

Independent Belarusian analysts warn that although the results of the talks between the two presidents in Moscow relate only to economic issues, the Kremlin has still not abandoned plans to achieve political integration from Belarus, which may well put an end to the country's sovereignty, writes with the BBC.

The Western media also agree with this, which note that although there are no agreements on political integration yet, the results of the negotiations may well bring Moscow closer to even greater control over Minsk, and in the future, possibly, to the unification of the countries.

At the same time, some netizens note that during the meeting, Putin's stand had the coat of arms of Russia, while there was nothing near Lukashenka. They see this as a sign that soon both countries will merge into one.

The Belarusian media, controlled by the president, say the meeting was very successful and praise Lukashenka. At the same time, independent media do not see any positive moments for the country as a whole.

Political expert Alexander Klaskouski notes that although the 28 approved programs to deepen integration, at first glance, relate only to the economy, the Kremlin does not hide its plans to achieve political integration from Minsk, which, according to the 1999 agreement on the Union State, should include the introduction of a single currency and creation of supranational authorities.

“In a word, the set that actually puts an end to the Belarusian sovereignty,” the analyst states.

He notes that despite the difference between the levels of impact and power of the two countries, such integration would mean "complete subordination of Belarus to the Kremlin."

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Although Lukashenka may try to resist such a development of events, he has little chance, because in the conditions of almost complete global isolation, Russia remains his main partner and ally.

Russian media and analysts note that although integration is a little haul, it still does not stand still. In their opinion, integration will give both countries a powerful impetus in economic development.

Whereas foreign media see integration as the first way to unite countries.

As the Wall Street Journal notes, after last year's elections, Lukashenka has to balance between dependence on Moscow and an attempt to preserve his country's sovereignty.

“At this stage in the development of relations between Belarus and Russia, it would be more correct to speak not of a decrease in formal sovereignty, but of a limitation of the independence of Belarus in the economic, foreign policy and military spheres,” explains the Belarusian analyst Yegor Lebedok.

According to the New York Times, these statements were another signal from the Kremlin that Russia will continue to support the Belarusian leader, despite a barrage of criticism from the West about human rights violations in the country. They also proved that Putin is keen to prevent Belarus from following the path of its southern neighbor, Ukraine, from Russia's orbit to the western one.

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