The Belarusian-Russian alliance: a new twist
By Anatol Pankouski
By publicly accusing ‘Wagner’ fighters of subversive activity against Belarus, the Belarusian leadership de facto accused Moscow. Despite the Kremlin's rather "soft" and "diplomatic" response, the agenda of allied relations is likely to change.
On July 31st, Russian President Vladimir Putin held a briefing for the Russian Security Council, during which, the incident with the detention of Russians in Belarus was discussed. His press secretary Peskov stated that the ungrounded detention of 33 Russian citizens in Belarus did not correspond to the allied nature of relations between the two states.
“We hope for the prompt clarification from our Belarusian allies about the incident and for the release of citizens,”
Peskov summed up.
The high-profile detention of ‘Wagner’ fighters (a private paramilitary company affiliated with the Kremlin), fits within the general framework of Belarusian-Russian relations in the last six months. On the one hand, Moscow is not rushing to make concessions to Minsk in terms of lowering energy prices, making the signing of all integration roadmaps a cast iron precondition for moving any further in energy price talks. Also, new trade barriers within the Eurasian Union are emerging faster than the old ones are being eliminated, and Russian is the driver behind it all. Any direct financial assistance to Belarus is not even discussed.
On the other, amid the coronavirus outbreak and the start of the presidential campaign, Minsk has resorted to a policy of blackmails and threats. In the spring, Belarusian propagandists sharply criticized Russia's approaches addressing the coronavirus outbreak. In June, interim administration was introduced at the Belgazprombank, a Russian Gazprombank subsidiary. The prevention of alleged sabotage by fighters from Russia was yet another move evidencing the current situation within the alliance.
The trade of "political prisoners" with Russia is likely to open a new chapter in Belarusian-Russian relations. Many analysts believe that Minsk reckons that the policy of "confrontation" with Russia will be dully understood and appreciated in the West and the United States in particular. As a result, the international community would turn a blind eye to what would happen in Belarus during the presidential elections.