State of the Union Debates: Is Transformation Possible Under the Same Structure?

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The State of the Union Agreement was signed between Russia and Belarus on April 2, 1997. Although it is aimed to create a confederation with the international agreement that foresees to deepen the political, economic and military cooperation between the two countries, both states continue to maintain their independence. As a matter of fact, citizens of both countries oppose the idea of “one state”.

With the signing of the integration decree of the Union State on November 4, 2021 by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko at the Meeting of the Supreme State Council of the Union State, the process for integration in the economic and social fields has been updated. After the meeting, Lukashenko said, “Belarus and Russia are restarting the common economic space. We intend to take a series of conceptual decisions over the next 2 years for the development of integration.” Putin said that “Unfortunately, former Soviet countries lag behind in many areas. We do not make full use of the opportunities and concrete advantages inherited from the Soviet Union period. I mean the common infrastructure, the common energy system, the Russian language, which plays a unifying role and allows us to easily communicate with each other. However, as the State of the Union, of course, we have made much greater progress than other formations.”

In a process where the tension on the Moscow-Kiev line is at the line stage, Statement of Lukashenko, “Belarus is already there. I think it is a good lesson for Kazakhstan. If you say 15 years, I am sure that Ukraine will be there if we do not make a mistake. Armenia has nowhere to go. Do you think anyone needs them? Azerbaijan is going on a different path… I think Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan will join us due to economic necessities.” brought the enlargement of the Union State to the agenda.

In this context, experts evaluating the State of the Union discussions to Ankara Center for Crisis and Policy Studies (ANKASAM) stated that the future of the Union State is uncertain.

International Relations Expert of ANKASAM Dr. Sabir Askeroğlu: Lukashenko wants to get rid of the pressure of Russia.

sabir askeroglu

Emphasizing that Belarus had to join the Union State under the sovereignty of Russia with the agreement signed in 1997, ANKASAM Expert Dr. Sabir Askeroğlu said that Lukashenko’s statement that some of the former Soviet Union countries would join the “State of the Union” was made within this scope.

Askeroğlu said, “The State of the Union could not turn into a formation that Russia wanted at first. Because Belarus, not wanting to give up its sovereignty, insisted on this. Moscow, on the other hand, aimed to make Belarus a part of Russia. Months of protests in Belarus in 2020 and the refugee crisis on the Polish-Belarusian border in the autumn of 2021 increased the pressure of the West on Lukashenko. For this reason, the Minsk administration moved closer to Moscow. However, Lukashenko, who does not want to be alone under the influence of Russia in the Union State and is disturbed by this, wants other former Soviet Union countries to join this union. said.

Indicating that the structure would take a different shape if other countries join the Union State, Askeroğlu stated that Lukashenko tried to appear as the leader of the Union State and said, “Lukashenko is trying to cover up his discomfort caused by the Union State.” made his comment.

Military University Faculty Member Filip Bryjka: It is technically not possible for the former USSR countries to join the Union State.

Academician Filip Bryjka said that Lukashenko’s statement that some of the countries of the former Soviet Union would join the Union State was technically impossible.

Stating that Lukashenko’s statement will remain in discourse, Bryjka drew attention to the fact that Armenia does not have borders with Russia and Belarus. “I don’t think that Armenia’s accession to the Union State will do any good for Russia or Belarus,” Bryjka said.

Retired Ambassador Hüseyin Diriöz: Belarus does not want to lose its sovereignty.

Retired Ambassador Hüseyin Diriöz, who pointed out that formations such as the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the Collective Security Treaty Organization (KGAO) and the Eurasian Economic Union (AEB) were established in the region after the collapse of the Soviet Union, said that the Union State established between Russia and Belarus was initially planned as a community of states or confederation. Referring to Lukshenko’s statements regarding the expansion of the Union State, Diriöz stated that the Minsk administration wanted to develop economic cooperation with the former USSR countries, and said that Belarus was afraid of losing its sovereignty and aimed to limit the integration to the field of economy and defense.

Pointing to the timing of Lukashenko’s statements, Diriöz said, “The developments regarding Ukraine may have also affected the timing. The name of the joint Russian-Belarusian exercise held on the Ukrainian border in the past weeks was determined as ‘Union Determination-2022’, which reminds of the Union State.”

Retired Colonel Coşkun Başbuğ: Russia wants to regain its power in the post-Soviet geography through the Union State project.

Emphasizing the importance of the 20-point decree signed by Putin and Lukashenko in November 2021, Retired Colonel Coşkun Başbuğ said that Russia aims to regain its power in the post-Soviet geography and dominate the past geography. Stressing that Putin cannot do this directly, Başbuğ stated that Moscow is trying to carry out the process through actors such as Minsk. Başbuğ said, “We should not focus on statements of Lukashenko; we should focus on behind the voice.”

Stating that Russia is pursuing an expansionist policy, Başbuğ said, “The fact that the Turkish states show unity is very disturbing to Moscow. On the other hand, Russia put forward the Union State project and it is possible that it will spread to other states. Therefore, Russian influence in the geography is met with some harsh practices. In other words, the Kremlin administration wants to dominate the post-Soviet space through the Union State. But it is not an easy task in this regard. As a matter of fact, if the Organization of Turkish States follows a more aggressive policy and acts quickly, Moscow’s attempt will be difficult. For this reason, I think that the biggest obstacle in front of Russia is the Turkish World.” made his comment.

Journalist Maryna Rakhlei: Lukashenko glorifies himself as a leader who makes decisions about other countries.

Journalist Maryna Rakhlei, who claimed that Belarusian President Aleksandar Lukashenko’s statement on the expansion of the Union State was ignored by the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “I can say that this is a classic picture where both sides are looking for what they need.” said.

Saying that Lukashenko glorified himself as a leader who makes decisions about other countries, Rakhlei said, “It has been 20 years since some powers in Armenia wanted to establish closer relations with Russia and join the Union State. In that sense, what happened is nothing new.” he said.

Lisans eğitimini Gazi Üniversitesi İletişim Fakültesi'nde tamamlayan Sibel Mazrek, yüksek lisans eğitimine Ankara Hacı Bayram Veli Üniversitesi Lisansüstü Eğitim Enstitüsü'nde Gazetecilik Ana Bilim Dalı'nda devam etmektedir. Çeşitli medya kuruluşlarında muhabirlik, spikerlik sunuculuk görevlerini üstlenen Mazrek, ANKASAM'da Medya Koordinatörü olarak çalışmalarına devam etmektedir.