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Russia’s Vladimir Putin meets leader of Belarus to hash out integration roadmap


Russia’s Vladimir Putin meets leader of Belarus to hash out integration roadmap

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Photo: Kirill Kdryavtsev/AFP/Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with his Belarusian counterpart, Alexander Lukashenko, in St Petersburg today to discuss an integration road map between the two states.

Lukashenko, who has held office since 1994, has kept Belarus in Russia’s political orbit, accepting energy subsidies in the form of cheap gas and oil as well as low cost loans. Still, he aims to negotiate more favourable terms against changing Russian tax policies, which stand to increase pressure on the Belarusian trade balance.

To the irritation of the Kremlin, the two countries have not merged largely because of a sceptical Belarusian citizenry wary of Russia’s regional ambitions.

Though the Kremlin hopes to absorb Belarus, it’s economic leverage is slipping. Large-scale Chinese investment in Belarus and a budding domestic technology industry, which brings in more than $9 billion per year, have lessened pressure on Minsk to integrate.

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With all of this, the meeting today acts as an opportunity for more favourable economic ties between the two states in the oil and gas industries. Nevertheless, political integration is highly unlikely when contending with the potential for domestic backlashes in Belarus. Putin will ramp up the pressure on Lukashenko for integration in the near future, possibly through hybrid warfare, as Moscow’s economic influence over Minsk continues to deteriorate.

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