The Kremlin may continue restricting migration within Union State

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February 06, 2017 12:52
Фото: Еврорадио

By enforcing border controls with Belarus without a warning, Russia has underscored the growing crisis of confidence between the two states and lowered Minsk’s status in the alliance. Moscow is likely to continue to exert pressure on the Belarusian authorities and may abandon some previous agreements within the Union State framework in order to prompt Belarus to concessions regarding a common visa policy. In turn, Minsk does not appear to be ready to accept Russian terms as regards its visa, military and economic (eg privatisation of large state enterprises) sovereignty.

Russia’s unexpected decision to enforce border controls at the Russo-Belarusian border has become a media sensation in Belarus and Russia.

Apparently, the lingering tension in Russo-Belarusian relations has prompted the acceleration of the crisis at different levels. For instance, President Lukashenka said that Russia could cut oil supplies to Belarusian refineries from 16 million to 12 million tons (according to Russia, due to the growing overdue debt for Russian gas to USD 550 million).

Moscow's decision to establish border controls on the Belarusian-Russian border raised a wave of reports in the Russian media and the Belarusian Internet about a possible withdrawal of Belarus from integration associations with Russia. The information campaign in the Russian media could amplify irritation among the supporters of the integration with Russia with President Lukashenka for his inability to negotiate with the Russian leadership. In turn, the Belarusian authorities are likely to use this situation to strengthen their positions vis-a-vis the Kremlin by demonstrating the rise in discontent with Russia’s actions among Belarusians and strengthening of pro-Western and isolationist sentiments.

The Belarusian Foreign Ministry criticized the Russian authorities for the introduction of border controls with Belarus, and did not rule out reciprocal measures. The Belarusian authorities are likely to attempt to shuffle off the responsibility for the introduction of additional restrictions on the single migration space within the Union State onto the Kremlin.

Mutual tensions and distrust between Minsk and Moscow continue to grow and may prompt Russia to introduce further restrictions and withdraw from previous agreements within the Union State.

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Belarusian and Ukrainian Defence Ministries entangle in confrontation spiral
October 02, 2017 11:57
Фото: RFRM

Over the past year, military-political relations between Minsk and Kyiv have become complicated. Due to their high inertia and peculiarities, this downward trend would be extremely difficult to overcome.

The root cause of the crisis is the absence of a common political agenda in the Belarusian-Ukrainian relations. Minsk is looking for a market for Belarusian exports in Ukraine and offers its services as a negotiation platform for the settlement of the Russo-Ukrainian war, thereby hoping to avoid political issues in the dialogue with Kiev. Meanwhile, Ukraine is hoping for political support from Minsk in the confrontation with Moscow. In addition, Ukraine’s integration with NATO presupposes her common position with the Alliance in relation to Belarus. The NATO leadership regards the Belarusian Armed Forces as an integral part of the Russian military machine in the western strategic front (the Baltic states and Poland). In addition, the ongoing military reform in Ukraine envisages a reduction in the number of generals and the domestic political struggle makes some Ukrainian top military leaders targets in politically motivated attacks.

Hence, the criticism of Belarus coming from Ukrainian military leadership is dictated primarily by internal and external political considerations, as well as by the need to protect the interests of generals, and only then by facts.

For instance, initially, the Ukrainian military leadership made statements about 100,000 Russian servicemen allegedly taking part in the Russo-Belarusian military drill West-2017. Then the exercises were labelled quazi-open and military observers from Ukraine refused to provide their assessment, which caused a negative reaction in Minsk. Further, without citing specific facts, it was stated that Russia was building up its military presence in Belarus.

Apparently, the Belarusian and Ukrainian Defence Ministries have entangled in a confrontational spiral (on the level of rhetoric). Moreover, only a small part of the overly hidden process has been disclosed. That said, third states are very likely to take advantage of the situation (or have already done so). This is not only about Russia.

The Belarusian Defence Ministry officials are restrained in assessing their Ukrainian counterparts. However, such a restraint is not enough. Current military-political relations between Belarus and Ukraine are unlikely to stabilise without the intervention of both presidents.

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