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Putin looking to merge Russia with Belarus

Newstalk ZB ,
Publish Date
Tuesday, 19 February 2019, 1:24p.m.

There are growing international concerns that Russia will attempt to absbrb Belarus as part of Vladimir Putin's plans to hold on to power. 

Moscow Times declared over the weekend that Belarus is ready to become part of the superpower, the latest in Putin's long-running goal to acquire the neighbouring country.

The comments come after a three day summit between the President and his Belarusian counterpart Alexsander Lukashenka, where Lukashenkna was reportedly attempting to assert his dominance and independence. 

However, whether that stops an apparently desperate Putin is up for debate. 

International relations expert Dr Robert Patman told Kerre McIvor that Putin clearly wants to stay in power as long as possible. 

"He has a constitutional problem as he can't run two consecutive terms as President, and he is now one year into his final five year term." 

Patman says that Putin is facing backlash over rising inequality in the country and the suppression of independent and opposition voices. 

"I think one of the reasons he's fearful of losing power is the ramifications if he can't determine his successor, as clearly his regime has engaged in activities which may be repugnant to a successor." 

Putin therefore wants to merge with Belarus, which would create a new nation state that could allow him to assume a new leadership role and carry on in power.  

Patman says that it would mean that he would not have to exit the political world in 2024, when his term is currently 

Russia is Belarus's closest ally and the two have long since formed a nominal "union" with close trade and military co-operation.

In December, Russia's largely irrelevant Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Moscow was ready for closer integration with Belarus.

According to him, this would include a common currency, shared customs services and courts. He said this was in line with a 1999 agreement to create a "union state."

That agreement, signed by both Lukashenko and Putin's predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, outlines a full federation, including a new common flag, national symbols and a unified judiciary.

However, Patman says that Putin risks isolating himself further if he goes through with the plan. 

"When he annexed in Crimea in neighbouring Ukraine, that actually made Russia more isolated in Europe than ever before."

He says that Putin is likely more concerned with how a transfer of ideas to Russia's youth could affect him. That has seen Putin initiate plans to turn off the internet as a means of shutting out new information. 

"He doesn't want democracies to work. What he worries about is that the ideas represented by a liberal democracies will infect his own society and people will wonder why he has to be running the country for so long." 

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