Staunton, December 11 – When Russia and Belarus agreed in December 1999 to create a Union State, many saw that as the first step toward the restoration of the USSR. But that hasn’t happened, and now even the supporters of the Union State say it is “a model for others’ because it promotes closer integration but maintains the independent statehood of its members.
Valentin Starichenok of the Belarusian State Pedagogical University and an expert with the Belaya Rus analytic group, says that on this 18th anniversary, there is much to celebrate and emulate although more remains to be done (rubaltic.ru/article/politika-i-obshchestvo/20171211-soyuznoe-gosudarstvo-rossii-i-belarusi-stalo-primerom-dlya-drugikh-stran/).
Perhaps the biggest achievement was the creation of an open border between the two countries, Starichenok says; perhaps the biggest disappointment was that the two did not move to a common currency but neither Alyaksandr Lukashenka nor the Belarusian people were prepared to sacrifice their independence by so doing.
Because the two countries retain their independence, he says, there can be no question about any reduction of sovereignty, and “further integration must be realized on the basis of the good of the two states” rather than the combination of the two. At the same time, it would be good if the Union State could adopt common symbols to be used internationally.
Starichenok says that the media in both countries and elsewhere play up any differences of opinion between Moscow and Minsk and consistently ignore how much cooperation there really is. And they fail to note that bilateral cooperation has proven easier than multilateral cooperation among many states.
Consequently, he says, it is time to view the Union State on its 18th birthday as a model for relations in the post-Soviet space. If Starichenok’s argument reflects the thinking in Moscow and Minsk, this represents a significant retreat from what many Russian imperialists hoped for and what many non-Russians still fear.
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