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The Union State as a Cover Up Instrument for imperial policy of Russia


Report of the National Anti-Crisis Management

On August 6, 2023, the democratic forces of Belarus adopted a political declaration, wherein one of the strategic goals is to withdraw from all alliances with the aggressor, the Russian Federation.

One of these alliances is the so-called Union State. To enhance the awareness of Belarusians regarding the nature of the Union State, the NAM team, with the support of the United Transitional Cabinet of Belarus, has prepared a report titled "The Union State as a Tool for Covering Up Russia's Imperial Policy."

This report contains an analysis of a number of legal acts of the Union State, an analysis of public statements by government officials in Russia and Belarus on the topic of the Union State, as well as an analysis of publications by Russian experts and analysts on this topic.

The Union State as an integration project of Russia and Belarus has long been considered by many experts as a kind of phantom. Indeed, for almost 20 years since the signing of the Treaty on the Creation of the Union State, the processes of integration of Belarus and Russia have been taking place almost unnoticed.

On the 20th anniversary of the project, the Russian side made an attempt to intensify activities to create a “full-fledged” Union State, but in 2019, for a number of reasons, including Lukashenko’s reluctance to go for deeper integration without preconditions in the form of lower energy prices, opening Russian markets for Belarusian goods, compensation for Russia’s “tax maneuver”, it was not possible to implement the plan.

However, after the events of 2020, Lukashenko, putting the desire to maintain his power above the interests of Belarus, increased the dependence of the Belarusian state on Russia. The logical result of this was the signing on November 4, 2021 of 28 integration programs of the Union State, as well as the updated military doctrine of the Union State - thus, Russia has achieved its goal that it set for itself back in 2019.

Under the guise of the Union State, the next stage of strengthening the influence of the Russian Federation on Belarus began to take place. At the current stage, it is obvious that it was important for Russia provide an additional springboard for the offensive in Ukraine, as well as support for Russian aggression from Belarus. At the same time, the format of the Union State was considered as a platform for the future absorption of conquered territories and the formation of a new empire, which is simply impossible without Ukraine and Belarus.

This report aims to reveal and demonstrate the Union State as an instrument of Russia's imperial policy towards Belarus. Considering the evolving context, the analysis of the Union State's role requires updating and further discussion both within the expert community and in Belarusian society.

This report will stimulate public discussion to shape a perception of the Union State in the Belarusian discourse that accurately reflects the threats and challenges it poses, as well as the importance of maintaining the independence of the Republic of Belarus.

Under the leadership of Lukashenko, Belarus poses an immediate security threat to at least four European countries (Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia) due to its position within Russia's sphere of influence.

Moreover, the Union State has not provided significant economic benefits for the Republic of Belarus. In fact, numerous economic conflicts have arisen within the framework of bilateral relations between Russia and Belarus. However, the Russian Federation has utilized the Union State as a facade to pursue its military-political and domestic political objectives.

While the Union State lacks recognition as a subject of international law, it serves as a guise for Russia to increase its influence in Belarus and justify its aggressive imperial policy.

It can also be speculated that based on the rhetoric surrounding the Union State, Vladimir Putin plans to garner support and secure his victory in the 2024 Russian presidential election by presenting himself as an advocate for territorial expansion.

Consequently, the groundwork is being laid for the integration of Belarus' party-political system into the party system of Russia, potentially leading to the unification of party representation in the parliaments of both countries. This process is likely to culminate after parliamentary elections in Belarus and Russia. This could pave the way for direct political "integration" within the Union State through the establishment of the Parliament of the Union State, aligning with statements made by regime representatives in the media who can be considered, to some extent, ideologists of the Union State. For example, Lev Krishtapovich, a pro-government philosopher and teacher at the Academy of Public Administration under the President of the Republic of Belarus, responded to the question "How do you envision the future development of the Union State and cooperation between our two peoples?" by stating, "In my opinion, we should focus on implementing the Treaty on the Union State, rather than modernization. This entails creating union authorities, union currency, union citizenship, and establishing the Union State as a recognized entity within the international community. In short, we should build a fully-fledged Union State."

For the independent Republic of Belarus, denouncing the Union State treaty will not have significant negative consequences strategically, as the project itself has not yielded substantial results for the treaty parties during its 25-year existence.

Meanwhile, Russia employs the Union State project as an instrument of its imperial policy aimed at eroding the independence of the Republic of Belarus, which poses an existential challenge to Belarusian statehood.

Summary

1. The Treaty on the creation of the Union State in 1999 did not result in the establishment of a tangible state entity, nor did the Union State bodies become fully functioning state institutions. An analysis of the Treaty on the Creation of the Union State reveals its contradiction with the Constitution of Belarus. The primary objective of the Union State project is to bring the post-Soviet space back under Russia's sphere of influence, including the consolidation of occupied territories in Ukraine. The ideology of the Union State revolves around illiberalism and the notion of the "Russian world."

2. Military-political integration holds a significant position within the framework of the Union State's activities. Under the guise of the "Union Resolve 2022" exercise, an invasion of Ukrainian territory occurred from the Union State's territory. Although Putin and Lukashenko's plans to "take Kyiv in 3 days" were unsuccessful, their ultimate goal of undermining Ukrainian statehood and eventually incorporating the occupied territories into the Union State remains unchanged. Lukashenko's subsequent complicity in aggression against Ukraine aligns with the military doctrine of the Union State, which was updated in November 2021.

3. With the implementation of the Union State project, military-economic and military-technical cooperation between Belarus and Russia has intensified. The Belarusian military-industrial complex now plays a crucial role in the functioning of the Russian military apparatus. The Lukashenko regime actively supports Russia's systematic efforts to modernize its army, develop new weapon systems, localize military production, and enhance its personnel and industrial capabilities.

4. The advancement of the "integration" process within the Union State has been hindered by Belarus's well-established civil society, which is committed to preserving the country's independence. In 2021, Lukashenko initiated the dismantling of civil society structures. Against this backdrop, various organizations created by the Lukashenko regime, as well as Russian public associations and Kremlin-funded foundations, have become more active within Belarus. This paves the way for the emergence of a pseudo-civil society within the Union State, which could facilitate the eventual absorption of Belarus by Russia.

5. Efforts are underway to establish a revamped political system in Belarus, which would serve as a foundation for deeper "integration" in the future. The party-political system of Belarus is being modeled after Russia, leading to a convergence of party representation in the parliaments of both countries. This development could potentially lead to the establishment of the Parliament of the Union State.

6. Despite extensive propaganda efforts, there has not been a significant increase in support among Belarusians for the idea of closer integration with Russia. Belarusian society rejects the imposed Union State project by Moscow. Currently, the Union State does not hold the status of a fully recognized subject of international law; it is employed as a cover to expand Russia's influence in Belarus. Denouncing the Treaty on the Union State will not strategically bring negative consequences for the Republic of Belarus, but rather the opposite, as the Union project itself has failed to yield significant positive outcomes for Belarus as an independent state.

The full report can be read here:

ENG_Union State Report
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