Moscow's Militarization and Intrusiveness.

Moscow's Militarization and Intrusiveness.

Leonardo Scanavino

Today more than ever, Belarusian sovereignty and the Pan-Russian paternalistic attitude seem to interfere in the diplomatic relations between Minsk and Moscow. This happens concurrently with the twenty-fifth anniversary from the beginning of diplomatic relations between the two countries. In recent years, in fact, some events appear to have created some crack in the relations between the two countries. Moreover, the moments of conciliation seem to be less frequent than in the past.

The reasons of friction

In 2014, the Belarusian government did not recognize the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation, in contrast to what some Central Asian and Caucasian countries did. President Lukashenko has always tried to maintain a conciliatory position, both to protect the economic relations with Moscow and to continue preserving good bilateral relations with Kiev. Subsequently, after the implementation of the visa-free regime in Belarus, the Kremlin unilaterally re-established border checks, previously abolished by the Union State Agreement, together with other common measures.

It is also necessary to underline that the "State Union" - a supra-national organization between the two states – proceeds intermittently. This institution on the one hand has experienced strong improvements concomitantly with the bilateral meetings between the two presidents, on the other has seen sharp slowdowns every time Lukashenko opposed to certain measures. He carried out this strategy in order to demonstrate to the Belarusian sovereigns all his determination not to capitulate to the will of Moscow.

Military issues

The military integration which followed the creation of the “State Union” has expanded through the years. However, there has been no shortage of moments of confrontation even in this field. In fact, Belarus has opposed Russia's motion to install an air base in its territory, highlighting how this instance was going beyond any previously stipulated agreement, as well as it was consisting in a substantial violation of national sovereignty.

The economic and military interests, it is well known, potentially enable to overcome any discrepancy in other fields. To do so, on 3rd April, on the same day of the terrorist attacks in St. Petersburg, Lukashenko and Putin met nearby the same city. In that occasion they took stock of the progression of mutual integration in the perspective of the completion of the “State Union”, as well as to discuss the most recent security and foreign-policy issues.

This meeting, as happened in the previous ones, let Putin convince Lukashenko of the necessity to expand the Russian presence in the Belarusian territory, with the pretext of defending the country from possible NATO actions. In particular, the transport of war material estimated in 2017 will consist in 4162 railway carriages, with an increase of about 36 times compared to the average of the last four years. This massive militarization program will allow Moscow to play a key role in eventual future scenarios on the borders with Lithuania and Poland, as well as being useful to keep Ukraine in check on another front.

Already in 2008, after the Russian-Georgian conflict, the then Polish President Lech Kaczyńsky, participating in an anti-Russian demonstration in Tbilisi, said: "Today Georgia, tomorrow Ukraine, the day after tomorrow the Baltic countries. And then, who knows? Maybe it will be also Poland’s turn". With a look back to this statement, should we be worried in view of the events in Crimea and Donbass?