The Yahoo News editorial board has obtained a document on presumable plans to increase Russian influence in Belarus. It was allegedly provided by a source at Vladimir Putin’s Presidential Office. The journalists shared this leak with Süddeutsche Zeitung, Delfi Estonia, Dossier, The Kyiv Independent, WDR, VSquare, Frontstory, NDR, Expressen and the Belarusian Investigative Centre.
A source from Putin’s Office notes that the document dates back to 2021. It was allegedly developed in the Presidential Office for Cross-Border Cooperation. The agency was reorganised in 2021 and now specialises in building relations with European countries.
The document shows that Russia’s plans include creating conditions for its military presence in Belarus, simplifying the procedure of issuing Russian passports to Belarusians, and introducing a single currency for the two countries.
BIC head Stanislau Ivashkevich believes that the journalist who shared the leaked information “has an untarnished reputation in international investigative circles”. In light of this, he decided to share the gist of the document with the public. Stanislau Ivashkevich’s analysis is available on the BIC’s YouTube channel.
According to the leaked documents obtained by Yahoo News, Russia’s main strategic goal is to establish a full-fledged Union State of Belarus and Russia by 2030. The 10-page document suggests concrete steps to this end. It is divided into three sets of prospects – short-term, medium-term and long-term. Depending on the time period, there are plans to regulate three spheres of public life: political, economic and humanitarian. For each sphere, the author(s) of the document highlight the implementation “goals” and “risks”.
It should be noted that similar leaks have previously appeared in the media, but the strategies described therein have not been implemented.
Among Russia’s goals in the political sphere is the establishment of stable pro-Russian pressure groups in the Belarusian political elite while “curtailing the influence” of local “nationalist and pro-Western forces”. They also imply the completion of the constitutional reform in Belarus on Russian terms which should result in the desired shaping of the Belarusian political and party system.
At the same time, it is proposed to hold joint military exercises between the two countries regularly and agree on a relevant schedule. According to the plan, these exercises will involve the armed forces and special services of the two countries. The curtailment of these activities could jeopardize the Russia-Belarus integration, the leaked paper warns.
The document also mentions plans to ratify the agreement on mutual recognition of visas and strengthen cross-border and interregional cooperation between the two countries. “Ensuring the integration of Belarusian NPP into the Union State energy system” is particularly stressed.
The final point of the plan envisages Russia’s control over “the comprehensive fulfilment of obligations by the Republic of Belarus within the Union State and other promoted integration associations.”
According to the document, the rapprochement between our country and NATO or its members, as well as the destabilisation of its social and political situation “due to the EU or US leverage” can pose a threat to maintaining Russian influence in Belarus. The author(s) of the document also fear(s) the “rise” of “pro-Western and nationalist” politicians in Lukashenka’s entourage.
In the trade and economic sphere, the paper says, Russia intends to act in a similar way. The short-term goals include establishing pro-Russian pressure groups within the Belarusian economic elite, as well as dealing with the issues related to “transit and infrastructure platforms”. Moreover, Russia allegedly intends to re-route to its ports the bulk of products currently transshipped through the Polish and Baltic ports.
The document also says Russia wants to discontinue roaming in the Union State and promote Belarus’ accession to the WTO.
Among possible threats to integration in the short term, the document names the potential increase of Belarus’ trade with the EU countries and the USA and “discrimination against Russian companies and producers”. The author(s) also suggest(s) that Russia and Belarus may face problems in selling electricity generated by the Belarusian NPP due to a “coordinated adverse campaign by European countries.”
In the humanitarian sphere, the short-term plans are to form pro-Russian pressure groups in the Belarusian scientific and expert community and civil society. In the media space of Belarus, the idea is to promote the advantages of cultural, economic, and political integration with Russia.
There are also intentions to increase the number of Belarusian students, trainees, and cadets in Russia’s leading universities, the document says. At the same time, Belarus should open the Unified State Examination centres or develop a methodology for the mutual recognition of the Belarusian Centralised Assessment and Russian Unified State Examination results.
A separate paragraph is devoted to the potential of boosting federal and regional Russian theatre tours to Belarus, as well as organising temporary exhibitions of Russian museums of global, federal and regional scales.
According to the leak, these plans may be threatened by deliveries of US and European COVID-19 vaccines to Belarus to replace Russian medications. The paper shows that Putin’s Presidential Office is also concerned about the possible drop in the Russian media’s influence on the Belarusian information space.
In the medium term, Russia allegedly intends to maximize the number of pro-Russian politicians among the Belarusian authorities and simplify the procedure for issuing Russian passports to Belarusians. According to the document, there are also plans to expand the infrastructure of Russia’s military presence in Belarus and to prevent NATO military exercises from being held on the territory of our country.
At the same time, the author(s) of the master plan consider(s) the potential of Belarus joining NATO as a threat to the country’s integration with Russia. The increase in the number of Belarusians who have received a residence permit in Poland based on their Polish ancestry and who are oriented towards living, studying and working in the EU is seen as another point of concern.
In the trade and economic sphere, according to the document, the unification of the customs legislation of the two countries, the adoption and ratification of the Union State Tax Code, as well as the merger of the energy and transport systems of Russia and Belarus are planned. One of the risks in this context is the possible reorientation of Belarus towards oil supplies delivered via Polish and Ukrainian ports.
However, if the document is authoritative, most of the mid-term plans concern an increase in Russian humanitarian influence in Belarus. These include the establishment of the Union State Commission for Human Rights and the promotion of Belarusian tours of well-known Russian singers who are loyal to the authorities or politically neutral.
Certain emphasis is placed on education. There are plans to open branches of Russian universities in Belarus and establish a Russian school in Minsk and additional Russian language classrooms in all Belarusian universities.
According to the document, these schemes can be thwarted by “the Belarusanisation efforts of the Belarusian authorities, as well as full or partial change to the instruction in the national language in country’s educational institutions.” The threat column specifically mentions “a full-fledged operation of the U.S. embassy” in Belarus.
Establishing a unified legal system of the Union State is Russia’s number one goal at the final stage of integration with Belarus, the document says. Judging by the paper, in the long term, coordinated social policy, as well as the establishment of a common Russian-Belarusian technological, scientific and information space, should also be implemented
The defence policy of the two countries must also be coordinated, the document’s author(s) believe(s). The need for the unification of border policies is particularly mentioned. Equally, the document provides for joint management of the armed forces and the introduction of unified standards for military staff training.
The emergence of conditions for Belarus’ integration with the EU and NATO, as well as our country’s withdrawal from the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, are among the potential threats to the integration within the Union State, the leak notes.
Meanwhile, the focus in the long term will be placed on the trade and economic sphere. For example, the document reports on the plans of Vladimir Putin’s administration to establish four areas of economic freedom: movement of goods, services, capital and labour. There is also talk of introducing a single currency, a common securities market, and full integration of the customs and tax systems of the two countries. Threats include the reorientation of Belarus’s economy towards Chinese and Western markets.
The humanitarian block includes schemes to strengthen the position of the Russian language in Belarus and ensure its dominance over the Belarusian language. Judging by the leak, it is additionally planned to merge the educational standards of Russia and Belarus and agree on the mutual recognition of qualifications.
The reaction of the democratic forces of Belarus to the the leaked documents
Franak Viacorka, political adviser to Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya:
“Lukashenko was always the most comfortable because they know how to deal with Lukashenko, how to control him, how to scare him. And through Lukashenko, it's very easy to control economy, military and step by step. Every year, Belarusian sovereignty was distorted and it was given to Russia. In last two years, Belarusian sovereignty was on the brink of full distinction annihilation. Right now Russia doesn't need to change Lukashenko in order to implement this plan because Lukashenko is the best implementer for this papers.”
Valery Sakhashchyk, member of the United Transitional Cabinet for Defence and Security:
“Belarus is already doing everything that Moscow wants from it. And the Russians feel at home in Belarus. They don’t ask and don’t even inform our military-political leadership about everything. Well, I think this situation will only get worse in the future.”
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