The Union State: Towards Crisis A
On the eve of the meeting of the Supreme State Council of the Union State, experts are making forecasts about the near future of Russian-Belarusian integration. Tension in bilateral relations is growing.
On November 4th, a meeting of the Supreme State Council of the Union State of Russia and Belarus with the participation of Putin and Lukashenka is scheduled. According to the press secretary of the Russian leader, DmitryI Peskov, the logistics for this event will depend on the epidemiological situation.
It is expected that the meeting will result in the ratification of 28 agreements aimed at aligning various aspects of Russian and Belarusian economic legislation, harmonizing conditions for business activity etc.
Pavel Uov notes that "The main issues have been settled – Lukashenka has no room for manoeuvre. I doubt that he will disrupt the signing of the road maps – it would be a disaster for him, with extremely serious consequences.”
This expectation is not shared by all observers, many of whom – despite the appearance of harmony in bilateral relations – predict conflict due to the fact that the Kremlin views the internal political crisis in Belarus as an opportunity to "impose on the Belarusian leadership a pathway to transit of power through constitutional reform, resulting in the removal of Lukashenka from the levers of power, and enabling more effective promotion of Russian interests in Belarus," argues Arseny Sivitsky.
Kommersant admits that Lukashenka and Putin may not sign the "full" integration package on November 4th. The paper cites an informed diplomatic source who alleges that there simply will not be enough time to prepare all the documents for approval at the highest level.
Strictly speaking, it is difficult to characterise the (non) ratification of the union programmes as a clarion event, since there remains the even more complex issue of the implementation of these agreements. Andrei Suzdaltsev concludes that "Without Russian money, Minsk will not pursue integration. But having received the money and approved the union programs, A. Lukashenka once again, as he did since 1999, will begin to fabricate external threats in order to postpone integration for another quarter of a century,".
On the eve of the meeting of the SSC of the Union State, the results of two opinion polls were released.
The Public Opinion Foundation surveyed Russian sentiments regarding Russian-Belarusian relations. More than half of respondents (56%) do not believe that Russia and Belarus will unite into one state in the near future, while 14% believe that this will happen. However, if a referendum on the unification of countries were held today, 59% declare they would vote "yes".
Regarding economic integration, 56% of Russians believe that that it is necessary to strengthen economic ties between Russia and Belarus, 14% of respondents disagree, and 30% found this difficult to answer.
The results of a closed poll by VTsIOM were also leaked, which experts interpreted as part of an ongoing effort to establish in the public mind that Belarus is not Lukashenka, and sooner or later he will depart the scene. This is logical since support for the Belarusian regime in its current form incurs significant costs and provokes anti-Russian and anti-Putin sentiments.
In turn, the Belarusian media are launching a campaign to discredit the Russian leadership and Putin in particular.