End of transparency at Russo-Belarusian border

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January 23, 2017 10:54

Russia is using the economic crisis in Belarus in order to prompt the Belarusian authorities to maximum concessions. The latter, however, are not inclined to make any concessions to Russia. The Kremlin, in turn, is willing to deepen bilateral contradictions, including over the border policy.

The Belarusian-Russian row over the border-crossing regime between the two states for citizens of third countries is indirectly related to Minsk’s reluctance to introduce a common visa space with Russia.

As of August 2016, Russia virtually withdrew from the freedom of movement agreement with Belarus. She did so unilaterally, without prior approval by Belarus. Moreover, Russia is gradually tightening border control at the Russo-Belarusian border. For instance, most recently, without a prior notice, she restricted the movement across the border for holders of diplomatic passports.

Such actions are a part of a broader Belarusian-Russian conflict. The border issue can only be resolved within the framework of the overall normalisation between Belarus and Russia. Equally, this applies to political, economic and security issues. It is obvious that the Kremlin expects concessions (read surrender) from Minsk, as the weaker party, which is at least premature. The harsh position of the Belarusian authorities is likely to encourage Russia to further aggravation of bilateral relations. As a result, one of the most important ideological symbols of the Russo-Belarusian integration since the 1990s, i.e. open order between the two states, could be dismantled. Moreover, it would be led by Russia.

The Belarusian-Russian conflict may lead to the restoration of full border controls between the two states. Should Russia resume the border control over the green border, the Belarusian authorities will have no other choice but to deploy border infrastructure on the eastern border. Which, in turn, will give Moscow an excuse to accuse Minsk of undermining the foundations of bilateral integration; and is likely to lead to new conflicts between Belarus and Russia.

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