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The ostentatious distancing of the Kremlin from the events in Belarus is not at all evidence of the Russian leadership’s indifference to the processes in the neighboring country. Moscow is busy analyzing the consequences and choosing the most accurate way to “force integration”.
Putin’s strategic goal is to make Minsk’s foreign and domestic policy fully subordinate to the Kremlin’s interests, fully synchronize with its foreign policy, primarily with respect to Ukraine and relations with the West. Privatization by the Russian oligarchate of the state enterprises of Belarus, primarily those of strategic importance, is of great importance.
This option is possible only as a result of the establishment of a Russian “protectorate” over the republic, which may be fraught with a set of consequences that are extremely undesirable for Russia itself.
First, if the Kremlin elects an aggressive technology of coercion in the form of a “formed reserve of law enforcement officers”, the reaction of the West will necessarily be harsh. In that case, the Russian leadership will have to compare the benefits of the “acquisition” with the pressure of new sanctions. If integration of Belarus is a matter of principle for Putin, he will not stand the price. But in this case, it will be catastrophically high.
Secondly, the Belarusian crisis has already had a negative effect on the domestic political agenda in Russia itself due to its projection on the development of protests in the regions of Russia, which makes it an additional challenge of domestic policy. Dissatisfaction and readiness to resist the arbitrariness of dictatorial regimes have already led to the consolidation of meetings in Minsk and Khabarovsk. Such a process may lead to the formation of a “common list” of requirements for the system of power throughout the entire space “from Brest to Vladivostok,” since, with the exception of national features, the general structure of the power vertical is identical in Russia and Belarus. In this case, the new hotbeds of popular irritation in the regions will not become fragmented, but will complement the “general federal list” of claims to power. This situation will make it extremely difficult to “cement” the existing system in Russia under the updated Constitution. The slogan to return to the 1994 Constitution has already become one of the main demands of Minsk residents.
Thirdly, at least 80% of Belarusians do not want to unite with their elder brother. Moreover, there are no preconditions for the vast majority of the population to become loyal to the Russians in the foreseeable future. Moscow is not in a position to offer anything worthwhile and ambitious to Minsk, as it is postponing its own national projects and the fight against poverty until 2030. With this in mind, voting by Belarusians in a referendum for unification with Russia with a fair and transparent vote count is a doomed plan. And a Russian plebiscite on hemp and in the trunks, or the inclusion of Belarus in the Union State in another way, will give Russia 9 million people ready to protest, capable of not only rocking but also to lead rallies throughout Russia. The Belarusian society has already chosen and united around its development model, which will be built on other principles.
Fourth, the idea of taking over Belarus finds more and more supporters in the Kremlin itself. Some Kremlin towers and Russian media broadcast a positive image of the Belarusian protests, rather than speeding up the Maidan import into Russia.
Fifth, the emerging problems in the economy of RB may turn it into a financial ballast that Moscow can notpull. To date, a record collapse in the quotations of RB bonds, the failure of attempts to place new ones, the closing of credit lines by foreign banks demanding early repayment of funds, the threat of paralysis of the economy due to the crisis of non-payments and washing out the working capital of enterprises sharply increase the threat of sovereign default, which will cut off most of the borrowings, except for the IMF crisis loans. Moscow’s restructuring of the Belarusian debt of $1 billion now and $0.6 billion next year will not save the situation. Belarus promises to be the heaviest burden on the federal budget, with questionable political benefits.
Another important factor in the further development of the Belarusian case (and this point should have been put first) is the breath of the Red Dragon. China ranks third in Belarus’ foreign trade, with its exports clearly dominating over Belarusian imports and a notable level of investment. While Moscow is rapidly losing its leadership in economic cooperation, Beijing is actively building it up, systematically turning Belarus into a springboard for economic expansion in the Baltics and Scandinavia. The Special Economic Zone with the Great Stone Industrial Park near Minsk is the foundation for the spread of Chinese influence in Eastern and Northern Europe.
Xi Jinping was the first to congratulate Lukashenko on winning the election, Tokayev and Putin were after him. And on August 10, the Russian president had a telephone conversation with the leader of the People’s Republic of China, in which Xi Jinping warned Putin against gross interference in the Belarusian crisis and absorption of the republic. Celestial Empire influences Russian foreign policy more and more every year, restricting the freedom of maneuver and making the Kremlin reckon with the interests of Beijing. Previously, Putin’s expansionist plans for northern Kazakhstan were radically corrected after China considered unacceptable the violation of the territorial integrity of the former Soviet republic, which is part of its interests.
It is possible that, even in the case of Belarus, China will become one of the main deterrents (guarantor) of the republic’s territorial integrity.
On the whole, even some of these circumstances make it problematic for Belarus to remain in the orbit of Russia’s exclusive influence. In general, the whole set of problems calls into question the accelerated integration and creation of the Union State.