On September 3, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin paid an official visit to Belarus, where he met with President of the Republic Alexander Lukashenko and held talks with Prime Minister Roman Golovchenko with the participation of delegations from both sides. Significant progress has been made on many issues of the Russian-Belarusian agenda, including the future of their Union State. It seems that Lukashenko has finally chosen a strategy for overcoming the crisis – accelerated integration with the Russian Federation.
Given the current situation in the country and the long mass protests ,the “acceleration” of integration means that this should be done as quickly as possible, in the coming weeks, in a few months at most.
Relations between the two sides have deteriorated significantly over the past year. Lukashenko, apparently, deliberately distanced from Moscow and did everything possible to be less dependent from his neighbor. Disputes over natural gas supplies to Belarus have become a stumbling block in the negotiations between the two sides. The price conflict in the oil sector led Belarus to look for alternative sources of raw materials and purchase oil shipments from Azerbaijan, Norway, Saudi Arabia, as well as from the United States. A signal of the crisis peak in relations between the two countries was the detention in Minsk of 33 Russian citizens accused of preparing provocations before the presidential elections.
Despite quite deep differences, in the crisis situation, Lukashenko chose a strategy of rapprochement with Moscow. The Russian Prime Minister arrived in Minsk today, the Belarusian defense Minister is flying to Moscow tomorrow, and the leaders of the two countries will meet in the next few days.
Currently, negotiations are underway on cooperation in various areas. In addition to enhanced political and economic integration, the format of combining armed forces into a single military bloc is being discussed. This implies the creation of a unified military structure, which significantly exceeds the level of integration within the framework of the CSTO agreements. The first step in this direction is already done. Today there was a resignation of the leadership of the Belarusian law enforcement agencies: head of the KGB, Secretary of State of the Security Council and Chairman of the State Control Committee. At the same time, the countries seek to maintain their administrative and political independence.
Accelerated integration with Russia will allow Minsk to resolve at least partly the growing crisis situation and solve a number of economic and domestic political problems. This settlement will satisfy the demands of a large part of the protesters, especially if a decision is made to hold new Presidential elections in the coming months.
If integration leads to stabilization within the country, then in the international arena, it certainly causes dissatisfaction of the Western countries.
In this context, it is important to consider the current state of relations between the West and Russia, Belarus. From today’s agenda, it is clear that the situation is deteriorating sharply, primarily due to the announcement by the German government that traces of poison from the group of substances that Novichok belongs to were found in the body of the Russian opposition leader Navalny. (Link, Link)
Today, Belarus has clearly expressed its position supporting the Kremlin. President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko during a meeting with Russian Prime Minister said that he had evidence of falsification of words about the poisoning of Navalny.
“We intercepted the conversation. We understand that Warsaw is talking to Berlin. Two subscribers on the line. Our electronic military intelligence intercepted it. < … > And we intercepted an interesting conversation ,which (I will let you read it, we will prepare it and send it to the FSB) clearly indicates that this is a fraud. There was no poisoning of Navalny, ” Lukashenko said.
It seems likely that the poisoning of Navalny and the subsequent imposition of sanctions against Russia are nothing more than a response to Lukashenko’s turn towards increased integration of the Union State with Russia. At the same time, it was the policy of the West, which actively supports the revolutionary forces in Belarus, that forced Lukashenko to turn to the East. Thus, the collective West loses influence on the figure who remains in power despite the protests that have been going on for almost a month.
Most likely, an ultimatum was sent through diplomatic channels to abandon plans for integration under the threat of new sectoral and personal sanctions. However it is not possible to openly impose sanctions in response to the Russian-Belarusian rapprochement, it is too rough and strained. Thus, there was a need for a pretext that was sufficiently weighty to take measures of pressure. The perfect pretext is the poisoning of Navalny, which miraculously took place at the most appropriate moment. Navalny’s personality has become the trigger of sanctions pressure, and his fate is a direct signal to Moscow. It is not a coincidence that the German foreign Ministry issued a statement that the development of the situation with Navalny directly depends on Moscow’s actions. Pressure on Moscow is being exerted by the united front of the leaders of Germany, France, and the United States, primarily by the leadership of the democratic party and its “deep state”.
Manipulations around the “Navalny gate” serve as a means of persuading Russia and Belarus to abandon integration. However, it seems that the parties have already moved to active actions to strengthen the Union State, and the rejection of rapprochement now would lead to an even greater crisis increase.
On the other hand, we cannot rule out the possibility that the Kremlin used the poisoning of Navalny as a decisive argument to persuade Minsk to accelerate integration.
Against this background, the version that Navalny was specifically handed over to the West looks quite viable, predicting that the Euro-Atlanticists will not miss the possibility to take advantage of the situation, accusing the Russian Federation. After another allegation of using Novichok, the Kremlin demonstrates its absurdity. In Russia, copies of Navalny’s biomaterial have been preserved, which makes it possible to prove the direct lies of Western leaders. Immediately after Merkel’s statements, experts from the Moscow research Institute named after Sklifosovsky conducted a study using the U.S.- made equipment. Substances from the group of cholinesterase inhibitors, traces of which were found in the body of Alexey Navalny by German doctors, Russian specialists as before did not reveal.
It is likely that Moscow will go further and associate “Navalny gate” with the already existing precedents of openly false statements from the West, for example, the lies of the Americans to the UN in connection with the presence of chemical weapons in Iraq.
Together with the continuing political crisis in Belarus, the poisoning of Russian opposition politician will serve as a basis for accelerating integration processes between Russia and Belarus, including the unification of the armed forces of the two countries, joint protection of the state border, the introduction of a single currency, etc.