Moreover, Zhelenin continues, the Putin-Trump summit is unlikely to win that many points for the Kremlin leader. Regardless of his personal desires, Trump can’t eliminate the sanctions on his own; and he is unlikely to want to take any additional steps that will provide additional evidence to those in the US who already view him as a Russian stooge.
As a result, Russians are unlikely to see the summit as a breakthrough either. Putin would thus seem in a difficult position: His population is angry about policies he won’t reverse; his ability to use the military against a neighboring country is limited by the costs of defense spending; and so it might seem he won’t be able to do something.
But there are always possibilities, Zhelenin says, even if they aren’t obvious to everyone. And the most obvious of these is for Putin to force Lukashenka to agree to giving the union state of Belarus and Russia greater real content, something that would be a kind of “hybrid” expansion and annexation at least in the minds of many Russians.
Such a move, of course, would take a long time to be fully realized; but even some key steps, perhaps a common presidency, army or foreign policy apparatus, would be enough to suggest that Putin is in the process of orchestrating the annexation of Belarus by the much-larger Russian Federation.