Staunton, July 5 – In Soviet times, Moscow promoted the integration of East European countries adjoining the USSR not only at the central government to central government level but at the level of adjoining regions which often took the lead in promoting cross border cooperation and thus the reduction in the significance of the border itself.
Now, without much fanfare or attention from outside observers, Moscow is doing the same thing in its relations with Belarus, promoting an expansion of cross-border ties between Belarusian oblast and adjoining Russian Federation ones (ritmeurasia.org/news--2021-07-06--viii-forum-regionov-belorussii-i-rossii-novye-akcenty-sotrudnichestva-55387).
As in Soviet times, such cross-border ties involved not only representatives of the regions but also of the central governments lest regional cooperation develop in ways at variance with the policies of those governments. The big change is that now agreements include not just state-to-state accords but the private sector as well.
A barometer of how far these relations have gone is provided by the annual forums on regional cooperation that have taken place every year since 2014. In the first years, these arrangements involved contracts of less than 100 million US dollars. But they have increased in value to the point that experts are predicting one billion US dollars in deals next year.
Such arrangements involve not just the flow of funds from one side of the border to the other but also the movement of people involved in these projects. And for both Moscow and Minsk, this has the effect of reducing the significance of the borders between their two countries and promoting the integration their respective governments say they favor.