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The Treaty That Can Change Belarus’s Future

As the protests in Belarus proceed despite the vicious crackdown by Belarusian police forces, there is another aspect to the situation that is often overlooked by observers. In 1999, Belarus and Russia signed the Treaty on the Creation of a Union State marking a continuation of the earlier 1996 agreement to eventually merge the two countries. Despite both Russia and Belarus agreeing to merge, neither country has taken the steps necessary to complete the merger. Instead, Belarus in 2008 decided to tie its currency to the US dollar instead of the Russian ruble. More recently, in 2020, Belarus was looking to break away from Russian energy because of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenka’s frustration with the cost of Russian crude oil. While paying lip service to Vladimir Putin, Lukashenka has also delayed the introduction of a common currency between Belarus and the Russian Federation. The potential of Belarus breaking from Russian energy seemed to have potential in 2020 and western leadership in the United States and the European Union began to consider relieving some of the sanctions that were placed on Belarus in 2004 after Lukashenka’s crackdowns on peaceful protests in the aftermath of a fraudulent election that he won. However, today, as in 2004, Lukashenka finds himself back in the global media for the abuses his regime has committed against peaceful protestors, but this time the protests have not stopped. Lukashenka–with the EU and USA responding to his crackdown with more sanctions— is once again reliant on his only ally, Vladimir Putin. Therefore, the Union State is important to consider when approaching the Belarusian situation. When Putin lost his puppet Victor Yanukovych in Ukraine after the Maidan Revolution in 2014, he responded by annexing Crimea and supporting rebels in eastern Ukraine. While unlikely, It is not out of the question to assume that if the Lukashenka regime starts to buckle, Putin might send in Russian soldiers to preserve Lukashenka’s power while forcing him to concede to Russian terms regarding the future development of the Union State, which would strengthen Russian influence over the Belarusian government, economy, and military. Putin does not want to lose influence over another European country on Russia’s border like he did with Ukraine, so the legal existence of the Union State gives him the precedent he needs to take action to protect Russian interest’s in Belarus under the cover of protecting the Union State.

Sources/Further Reading (RU)

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