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Belarus-Russia 'union' talk is mostly posturing

Monday, August 19, 2019

Subject

Prospects for substantive unification between Russia and Belarus.

Significance

The Belarusian government is discussing a prospective formal union with Russia, but it appears to see this more as a process for obtaining economic concessions and resolving ongoing differences. President Alexander Lukashenka repeatedly stresses dividing lines on sovereignty, foreign policy and security -- the only areas where he wields some power in the unequal relationship. Moscow, for its part, leverages the ‘Union State’ concept to keep Minsk under pressure, at a time when Belarusian economic performance is disappointing and export revenues are declining.

Impacts

  • True union would resemble annexation, giving Moscow a long border with Poland to defend and exacerbating tensions with NATO.
  • Belarus will try to keep Russian troops out of its territory while professing to be Moscow's closest security ally.
  • Russia's economic influence leaves limited scope for greater EU engagement with Belarus.
  • Minsk will continue to assist negotiations on the Ukraine conflict, enhancing its status in Europe.
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