Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenka at a Collective Security Treaty Organization meeting in Kyrgyzstan in November 2019. Photo: Getty Images.

Two December meetings between Presidents Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenka failed to deliver Moscow’s hopes of securing Minsk’s acceptance of closer alignment between Russia and Belarus.

Over the past year, relations between Belarus and Russia have been under unprecedented strain as Moscow has tried to encourage Minsk to sign up to a different format of relations designed to keep Belarus firmly in a Russian orbit. Details of the negotiations have remained secret, yet issues on the table appear to include unification of tax and customs systems, a common energy regulator and joint governing bodies.

The Kremlin believes that Belarus needs to deliver more in return for Russia’s continued economic support, worth around $10 billion per year.…  Seguir leyendo »

Alexander Lukashenka leaves a voting booth on 17 November. Photo: Getty Images.

Belarus’s parliamentary elections, held on 17 November, were predictably non-transparent, with numerous violations. The regime of Alexander Lukasheka allowed no opposition candidates as members of parliament – in contrast to the previous parliament, in which there were two opposition MPs. While this might seem to be a return to ‘business as usual’, three key takeaways from the elections highlight a shifting political and social landscape.

1. Lukashenka is appeasing his ruling cadre by promising to increase their role in the political system.

With several influential officials becoming new MPs, it is more likely that parliament will be more involved in any forthcoming discussion of a new constitution.…  Seguir leyendo »

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenka in Sochi in February. Photo: Getty Images.

Earlier this year, there was intense speculation in Moscow that the Kremlin was looking at putting flesh on the bones of the Union State as a platform for President Putin to stay in office after 2024 as leader of a Russian-Belarusian confederation. The joint state has only existed on paper since its formal establishment in 1999.

The ‘integration plan’ negotiated by the ministers of the economy of Russia and Belarus falls far short of establishing a single monetary, banking and customs system as foreseen in the original Union State Treaty. The draft agreement focuses on a more modest range of economic integration measures including a single tax code, a single regulator for the energy markets and deepening of common customs policies.…  Seguir leyendo »

Will Russia try to occupy Belarus?

Earlier this year, several public figures sounded that alarm, including former NATO general secretary Anders Rasmussen and Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum. That concern clashes with the idea that Belarus is Russia’s closest ally.

So where did they get that idea? Over the past four months, the Kremlin has been proposing closer ties within the Union State of Russia and Belarus, an agreement that aims toward deeper integration between the two. That treaty was signed in 1997 — but has had few tangible results. Some Russian elites are rumoring that creating a fully functioning union might enable Vladimir Putin to stay in power after he reaches his term limit as president in 2024.…  Seguir leyendo »

People walk among the crosses at a mass grave in Kuropaty, near Minsk, commemorating the victims of Stalin’s regime. Photograph: Vasily Fedosenko/Reuters

In December I travelled to Minsk for a seminar with a group of European historians. A few miles outside the capital of Belarus, we visited places where both the Nazis and Stalin’s secret police had committed some of the worst crimes of the 20th century. During those few days, I also spoke with some young locals who offered glimmers of hope as to what a truly united Europe could one day look like.

It was the most instructive trip I’ve made in years: a deep dive into conflicting European memories, highlighting the difficulty of overcoming stereotypes and ideological narratives, as well as the legacy of the cold war in people’s minds.…  Seguir leyendo »

The rise of virtual currencies is pushing governments around the world to come up with new rules. Some countries have banned bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies outright. Others, including Venezuela and Russia, reportedly are looking to create state-sponsored cryptocurrencies as a way to get around economic sanctions.

In December, authoritarian Belarus apparently became one of the world’s most favorable countries for cryptocurrencies, thanks to a decree legalizing cryptocurrency transactions. It’s an unusual modernization experiment in authoritarian Belarus, as the decree leaves these payment systems almost entirely outside the Belarus state regulatory system.

Here are three things to know about Belarus’s cryptocurrency law:

1) Belarus just moved to the front of the cryptocurrency pack

The decree by President Alexander Lukashenka makes Belarus, long weighted down by bureaucracy and state-dominated enterprises, one of the world’s leading countries in terms of cryptocurrency development.…  Seguir leyendo »

Following seven days of «military operations», the fictional country of «Veshnoriya» (with a geography similar to that of the Baltic States) was forced into submission by Russian and Belarusian joint forces.

In a grand display, the «Union State» of Russia and Belarus destroyed the enemy after Veshnoriya tried to stage border incursions and massive air raids.

This scenario was, of course, played out in Russia and Belarus during the Zapad-2017 military exercise. But what were the key takeaways for the watching world?

Small is beautiful

Western commentators were obsessed with the numbers of Russian troops being mobilized during the course of exercise and stuck firmly to the «100,000 servicemen» narrative.…  Seguir leyendo »

La Biélorussie est l’un des six pays de la partie européenne de l’Union soviétique qui ont gagné leur indépendance suite à la chute de l’URSS en 1991. Ces six pays ont choisi différentes voies de développement. Les trois pays baltes ont, dès le début, aspiré à intégrer l’Europe ; la Moldavie avait les relations spécifiques avec la Bulgarie, quant à la Biélorussie et l’Ukraine, ils n’avaient pas de stratégie de développement et balançaient entre l’Europe et la Russie.

Les trois pays baltes sont devenus membres de l’Union européenne (UE) en 2004, la Moldavie a, elle, été divisée et sa partie orientale est devenue un Etat fantoche contrôlé par les forces armées russes.…  Seguir leyendo »

Ces derniers temps, il m’est arrivé à plusieurs reprises de croiser sur la route Minsk-Vilnius des convois de poids lourds siglés « ministère de l’intérieur de Biélorussie ». Je ne pensais pas que le ministère de l’intérieur pouvait avoir de tels besoins logistiques. Les camions allaient dans la direction de « Veyshnoria », un territoire rebelle fictif situé au nord-ouest de la Biélorussie aux frontières lituanienne et polonaise, inventé par les états-majors de la défense russe et biélorusse dans le cadre de l’exercice militaire « Zapad 2017 » [Ouest 2017].

Questionnements légitimes

Formellement, cet exercice a débuté le 14 septembre et devrait se dérouler jusqu’au 20 sur le territoire biélorusse et dans l’ouest de la Russie, ainsi que dans la Baltique.…  Seguir leyendo »

L’exercice stratégique conjoint des forces russes et biélorusses « Zapad 2017 » [« Ouest 2017 »] a suscité une vague d’inquiétude sans précédent et attiré une fois de plus l’attention sur la Biélorussie. Coincée entre l’Union européenne [UE] et la Russie, la Biélorussie apparaît rarement dans les médias occidentaux et, lorsque c’est le cas, elle est presque systématiquement qualifiée de « dernière dictature européenne », avec ses prisonniers politiques et ses violations permanentes des droits de l’homme.

Libéralisation politique

La situation a commencé à changer un peu à la suite des accords de Minsk, dans lesquels la Biélorussie a joué un rôle significatif pour la résolution du conflit ukrainien.…  Seguir leyendo »

As Russia prepares for its annual strategic military exercises, speculation is mounting that the Zapad-2017 war games, set for Thursday through Sept. 20 in western Russia and Belarus, might be a prelude to war. Ukraine’s defense minister cautioned that Zapad could be a ruse to attack any European country “that shares a border with Russia,” while the New York Times proclaimed that the drills near NATO’s borders have raised “fears of aggression.” A CNN contributor wondered, “Could they turn into war?”

My analysis of Russia’s recent war games suggests that this is highly unlikely. The Russian military is preparing for war, but that is what generals in all countries do — prepare for worst-case scenarios, and carry out large-scale exercises to test the military’s readiness for them.…  Seguir leyendo »


Rusia y Bielorrusia han anunciado Zapad-2017, maniobras militares entre el 14 y 20 de septiembre en el Mar Báltico, Kaliningrado, Rusia occidental y Bielorrusia.


El anuncio de las maniobras Zapad-2017 (zapad en ruso significa “oeste”) ha levantado entre los analistas occidentales la sospecha de que Moscú podría usarlas para atacar a un país miembro de la OTAN. Aunque la invasión de Georgia en 2008 y la anexión de Crimea en 2014 contaron con efectivos que estaban realizando entrenamientos militares, actualmente Rusia no aspira a emprender nuevas aventuras bélicas (y menos contra un país de la Alianza Atlántica) sino a reducir el conflicto en Ucrania para revertir las sanciones impuestas por EEUU y la UE, desactivar la retórica anti-rusa y socavar a los que advierten de las intenciones agresivas del Kremlin.…  Seguir leyendo »

In Russia and neighbouring Belarus, preparations are underway for Zapad – a major military exercise to be held in September. The two countries’ Western neighbours are worried. Zapad is Russian for ‘West’, and of all the different major exercises in the Russian military calendar, it causes the most excitement and concern because it is the one that most closely resembles practice for invading those neighbours.

As a result, this regular event receives a lot more attention than other Russian manoeuvers of similar size. Held every four years, the exercise can even develop its own mythology: much of the Western coverage said that the 2009 exercise ended with a simulated nuclear attack on Warsaw, Poland, even though there is no evidence at all from unclassified sources to suggest this was the case.…  Seguir leyendo »

Recent months have seen unprecedented social protest in Belarus. According to Human Rights Watch, citizen mobilisation has also resulted in mass and arbitrary arrests of demonstrators, human rights activists and journalists in this authoritarian nation.

On orders of President Aleksandr Lukashenko, who has ruled the country since 1994, some 1,000 people were detained, jailed or forced to pay hefty fines from February through the big March 25 Freedom Day protest commemorating the republic’s founding in 1918.

Notably, protests occurred not only in Minsk and regional capitals but also in smaller towns throughout Belarus for the first time. A proposition for a new tax targeting part-time workers catalysed existing discontent with the country’s economic situation.…  Seguir leyendo »

What happened?

25 March is the anniversary of a short-lived independent Belarusian state in 1918, and traditionally a day for rallies organized by opposition groups. This year it also followed a series of smaller protests about a controversial new law penalizing so-called ‘social parasites’ who do not work a certain number of days each year. Demonstrations were permitted in a number of provincial towns, but not in the capital.

The response by the authorities was firm, but not dramatic by local standards. Just over 700 people were arrested, with most released the same day either without charges or awaiting trial. The following day, more arrests were made at rallies in support of those detained the day before.…  Seguir leyendo »

In the past month, protests have swept across Belarus, a post-Soviet republic in Eastern Europe. Citizens are outraged by Presidential Decree #3, popularly known as the law against “social parasites.” This 2015 law penalizes part-time or unemployed workers, requiring them to pay an annual tax of approximately $250 — a penalty that helps make up the taxes they would have paid had they held a full-time job.

The protests have been smaller than earlier demonstrations against the regime. But they’re a substantial problem for the long-standing authoritarian president, Alexander Lukashenko — because many of the protesters come from groups and in live cities that typically support him.…  Seguir leyendo »

“Moscú no tiene intención de ocupar Belarús” declaró en febrero de 2017 el presidente bielorruso, Aliaksandr Lukashenka, tres días después de que Rusia instalara controles a lo largo de su frontera con el único país con el que tiene un Tratado de Unión. Esta afirmación se suma a las voces de alarma de expertos nacionales y algunos internacionales que sospechan de posibles planes de Moscú para derrocar a Lukashenka, valiéndose de organizaciones sociales fervientemente prorrusas, como asociaciones de veteranos o de cosacos, círculos de la Iglesia Ortodoxa, clubes militares, campamentos juveniles, etc. Todo ello da muestra de las preocupaciones que planean sobre la capital del país considerado el aliado más fiel de Moscú.…  Seguir leyendo »

« Ce qui arrive »… C’est ainsi que s’intitulait l’exposition conçue par Paul Virilio, à la Fondation Cartier, en 2002. Une invitation à se pencher sur les accidents industriels du XXsiècle, pour montrer les conséquences inévitables de notre course effrénée vers un avenir prospère.

Parmi ces accidents majeurs, la catastrophe de Tchernobyl occupe une place à part, car elle interpelle radicalement nos notions d’espace et de temps, sans même parler des conséquences sanitaires pour les 8 millions de personnes, dont 2 millions d’enfants, qui vivent toujours dans les territoires contaminés de la Russie, de l’Ukraine et de la Biélorussie.…  Seguir leyendo »

Russia has announced that it has set up a joint air defence system with Belarus.

As with so many joint projects between Moscow and Minsk, this appears to be a Russian idea that could remain largely on paper without Belarusian cooperation. But it does create an opportunity that Russia could exploit if relations with NATO and the West deteriorate further.

The significant point is not the announcement, but whether and how it is implemented. A notional joint air defence system between Russia and Belarus is a very old idea, and plans for the current incarnation date back to 2009. It’s not unique: previous announcements like this have been made with respect to Kazakhstan, for instance.…  Seguir leyendo »

During a surprise three-day visit, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Michael Carpenter is meeting senior Belarusian defence officials and President Aleksandr Lukashenko. Offering an exchange of defence attachés, Carpenter has reportedly said the main focus of US policy towards Belarus is now ‘steadfast support for its sovereignty and territorial integrity’.

As a former director for Russia at the US National Security Council, Carpenter will be fully aware of the risks involved in incautious moves in Minsk. With Moscow portraying itself as under threat from an encroaching West, Russia will have been watching tentative steps towards rapprochement between Belarus and the EU and US with concern.…  Seguir leyendo »