David Marples and Uladzimir Padhol write on Russia’s Troublesome Ally
Belarus’ strained relationship with Russia illustrates the contradictory relationship between its leadership and that in Moscow during the presidential election campaign.
The problematic areas include the war in Ukraine and the closely related issue of collaboration in the military-industrial complex.
In late 2014, at a meeting between president Aliaksandr Lukashenka and Russian Minister of Defence Sergey Shoigu, the latter proposed to station a regiment of 24 Sukhoi Su-27SM3 Flankers at the Babruisk Air Base. Russia already uses other bases in Belarus to deploy SU-27s, in response to NATO operations in Lithuania and Estonia.
Despite raised hopes, a full turn toward Europe seems unlikely.
Do recent events indicate that Belarus could fully turn towards Europe and pull away from Russia politically? In the last few months, a number of developments have excited observers in international media and revitalised old debates about the former Soviet country’s future. But despite positive indications, a broader view suggests that this prediction may be overly optimistic.
In the judgment of most media freedom or democracy indexes, the Eastern European country is labelled as one of the worst in Europe and in recent years Belarus has shown no tangible progress towards establishing a free media atmosphere.