Latviski English По-русски
Tuesday 18.02.2020 | Name days: Kintija, Kora

Lithuanian analysts on Russia-Belarus unification plan: actions louder than words

(+1 rating, 1 votes)

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (R) and his Belarusian counterpart Sergei Rumas (L)

Linas Jegelevičius for the BNN

The announcement by Belarus and Russia this week of their entering into an economic confederacy by 2022 did not go unnoticed in Vilnius, which is courting the idea of recharging its dusty relations with Minsk. Is it just the Slavic countries’ new attempt to fulfil the endeavour?

Or, to believe some, is it a complicated scheme to help Russian president Vladimir Putin clear the Constitutional barrier and aim at re-election in 2024 as head of a unified state? Most importantly, if Belarus and Russia do finally unify, what it means for Lithuania?

A new round of unification talks

As talks of a Russian and Belarusian confederacy resurfaced, most Lithuanian analysts rather play a waiting game and see how it will play out at the end of day.

«Indeed, Belarus’ union with Russia is one of the ways in which President Vladimir Putin could clear constitutional term limits that bar him now from re-election in 2024. But that would be an astonishingly complex scheme involving many risks,» Povilas Gylys, Lithuania’s former Foreign Minister and ex-MP, told the Baltic News Network (BNN).

According to him, the idea of a single Russian and Belarusian state has been brought up so many times over the last 20 years that now «few» believe in it.

«Just let me remind that a 1999 Russia-Belarus deal envisioned a union state with a common currency, legal system and a joint defence and foreign policy. The decision however did not flesh out,» Gylys accentuated.

To the remark that the intentions have lately gotten more serious, which signals Tuesday’s visit of David Hale, U.S’s Undersecretary of State for political affairs, to Minsk, former Lithuanian Foreign minister answered that the Unites States evidently sees «room» now for restoring estranged relations between Washington and Minsk.

«It certainly gives more means of juggling to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko,» Gylys pondered.

U.S. scrambles to renew ties with Minsk

The U.S. plans to return its ambassador to Belarus, ending a freeze in ties with the authoritarian former Soviet republic which had lasted for more than 11 years. The USA called off its ambassador from Minsk in 2008 in the wake of human-rights abuses and crackdown by the Belarusian government against the opposition.

Asked if possible unification could pose danger to Lithuania, which shares border with Belarus, former parliamentarian reasoned that it would depend on the situation behind the border.

«Should there be any shake-up in Minsk, it will certainly reverberate to Vilnius. But, on the other hand, if unification led to a warming-up of relations with the West, and Vilnius, too, we could benefit,» former Foreign minister said.

Lukashenko’s promise to the U.S high-ranking official Tuesday not to deploy short – or medium-range missiles in his country – something Russia has suggested it might do in response to U.S.  and NATO military moves in Europe – was certainly music to the Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius’ ears, who did not feel happy upon hearing the news on the new round of attempts to bring Belarus and Russia much closer. While speaking to the Žinių radijas on Tuesday, Linkevičius cautioned the plans cannot be viewed positively.

Lithuanian Foreign minister frowns at unification idea

According to him, new integration agreements between Minsk and Moscow will bring Russia closer to the Lithuanian border «with all the consequences», which is «not a very positive thing.»

In his words, «it would hardly be correct to draw conclusions» based on Russian media reports about agreements on the unification of the customs systems, trade and financial rules, and the energy market starting 2021.

«Should any changes occur, Belarus’ government will hardly be the initiator. What it means is that Russia is coming closer de jure and de facto with all the consequences this entails,» he said. Linkevičius claimed that Vilnius will continue applying «the principle of selective cooperation» with Minsk.

«Vilnius will continue to underline the risks posed by the Astravyets nuclear power plant, but will not rule out making certain concessions, for example, in talks on visa-free travel if it sees signs of progress,» Linkevičius underscored.

President seeks better relations with Minsk

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda, who recently spearheaded a high-profile discussion, involving top policy pundits, on relations with Belarus, noted that there are «clear» attempts to reduce the remains of Belarus’ sovereignty, but refrained from making any conclusions.

«It is just too premature to valuate such non-verified information,» the head-of-state underlined.

In his words, Lithuania is interested in Belarus maintaining as much of its sovereignty as possible.

«And I can also add that I have said numerous times that we are interested in having a long border with Belarus. We have one already with Russia. We also want to have a border with Belarus, not a very long border with Russia,» the Lithuanian president said in a statement.

Andžej Pukšto, associate professor of Kaunas’ Vytautas Magnus University was one the participants of the President-hosted discussion on Belarus in early September. Approached by BNN this Wednesday to comment Belarus’ deeper integration with Russia, the scholar was sceptic about the unification plans.

World community will not put up

«Unless I see some actions along the way, I won’t believe it is set to happen. It is certainly Russia, not Belarus, that wants such unification. I am sure Lukashenko will resist such new attempts by all means and I am sure the world community will not keep its mouth shut. We saw the U.S official’s visit to Lukashenko this week – the U.S is clearly sending a firm message it wants to see Belarus an independent country. We also heard this week Lithuanian PM Saulius Skvernelis and his Polish counterpart Mateusz Morawiecki discuss how Vilnius and Warsaw can help Minsk with its energy security,» Pukšto told BNN.

«Russia has definitely got more trumps cards in its hands against Belarus due to its being the single energy supplier. Ironically, Lukashenko, excoriated for so many years for his authoritarian style and  crackdown on opposition, now seems to be the only guarantor of Belarus’ independence,» the analyst said.

In his words, with Moscow’s pressure on Minsk, he cannot rule out that Lukashenko will exhort people to hit the streets in defence of independence.

«He enjoys Russia’s attention, but as much he likes the attention from the West. In that sense, he is a little unpredictable, but he is a good player,» he noted.

 Lithuania needs to be in the game

Lauras Bielinis, professor of Kaunas’ Vytautas Magnus University and former director of the Belarusian Institute in Vilnius, also doubted «seriousness» of new unification intentions.

«We see that it (unification) is being sought in a non-democratic way. No referendum, nothing is hold – the decision-making takes place behind closed doors. I’d rather believe both countries can ultimately agree on pursuing a more active model of economic cooperation, one not foreseeing a common currency, leave alone a joint legal system and defence,» Bielinis told BNN.

According to him, for Lithuania, it is «very important» to take advantage of any situation than can arise over the border, rein it in if possible and be part of it upon circumstances.

The analyst doubted if unification could be implemented to give Putin a green light for re-election in 2024. Now the Russian Constitution bars him from seeking third consecutive presidential term.

«It sounds just as a theoretical possibility to me. I’d ask this: does Putin really want it? It will not go like a hot knife through butter. Let’s not forget Putin is aging and what he wants least is political headache. His entourage understands well he is running out of gas and votes, too. The recent Moscow council elections showed this clearly,» Bielinis accentuated.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Monday that the plan of unification cited by Russian daily Kommersant is «preliminary». He said the integration roadmap is expected to be released to the public before the start of 2020.

Signifying two countries’ cooperation, Belarus and Russia are holding weeklong joint exercises in the Nizhny Novgorod region, west of Moscow. Reportedly, the Union Shield 2019 drills involve a total of 12,000 troops and 950 pieces of military equipment.

Leave a reply

Saeima deputies put off vote on final MPC system report; say more time needed

On Monday, 17 February, Saeima’s Parliamentary Investigative Committee for Mandatory Procurement Component System did not vote on the final report. Approximately thirty minutes were spent discussing the fact that not all members of the committee have had an opportunity to study the latest redaction of the document.

Latvia’s president presents no plan for Misāne matter after meeting with heads of institutions

After meeting with representatives of the management of responsible institutions on Monday, 17 February, Latvia’s President Egils Levits did not present a clear action plan for Kristīne Misāne’s situation. However, he did stress the importance of civil activity, including the rising role online petitions.

Rubber stretching. 11th anniversary of Aivars Lembergs’ trial

Rubber stretching is a process that supposedly progresses but yields no benefits to anyone except the person doing the stretching. This allegory can be used to describe Aivars Lembergs’ trial, which has continued for 11 years.

101 applications submitted for project on preservation of cultural and historical heritage

A total of 101 applications for a total amount of EUR 1.68 million have been received for Riga City Council’s announced tender, as reported by Riga City Council chairman’s advisor Baiba Gailīte.

FKTK chief: Latvia has earned the right to avoid being «greylisted»

Latvia has earned the right to avoid being added to Financial Action Task Force «grey list», said the head of Latvia’s Finance and Capital Market Commission Santa Purgaile in an interview to Latvijas Radio on Monday, 17 February.

Latvian government signs new contract for Latvia’s pavilion in Expo 2020

The government has signed a 1.4 million euros worth contract for the construction of Latvia’s pavilion at Expo 2020, which will be held in Dubai, as confirmed by Economy Minister Ralfs Nemiro

Eurostat: Latvia’s GDP growth reportedly below average in EU in Q4 2019

When compared to the same period of the previous year, Latvia had a lower GDP than the average in the European Union in Q4 2019, according to data published by Eurostat for 20 of the union’s countries.

Signature collection for a referendum on municipal snap election regulations fails

According to provisional results from the Central Election Commission, it has not been possible to collect enough signatures to initiate a referendum over Saeima’s approved changes to municipal snap elections regulations.

Denmark plans to have Latvian citizen Misāne handed over to South African Republic

On Friday, 14 February, the Danish court ruled not to release Latvian citizen Kristīne Misāne from custody. In the South African Republic the woman is accused of kidnapping her own child, as LTV was informed by Misāne lawyer.

Week in Lithuania: retailer Maxima got in trouble, Turkish firm’s assets frozen, New Agency set up

Lithuania's concessions provided to the Polish business group Orlen, operating an oil refinery in Lithuania's Mažeikiai, have helped to improve bilateral relations but were not the key element in their thaw, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda said this week.

BNN summary of the week: Levits urges protecting officials. Riga City Council toppled. Tax changes planned

The BNN gives you a summary of the key events of the past week, told in news stories of the following topics: Serious signals; Perseverance; Dismissal; Tax changes; Media supervisors; Inflation; Slower over the bridge and Belief protectors.

Prime minister orders development of proper government MPC monitoring rules

Latvian Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš has ordered Economy Minister Ralfs Nemiro to immediately commence work on a new mandatory procurement component monitoring project and submit it as soon as possible to ensure efficient control over the system, as confirmed by the prime minister’s office.

1 700 medics infected with coronavirus in China; six dead so far

More than 1 700 medics in China are confirmed infected with the new coronavirus. Six of them have already died, as confirmed by healthcare officials.

Number of foreign guests hosted in Latvian places of accommodation up 1.6%

2.85 million foreign and Latvian visitors stayed at Latvian tourist accommodation establishments in 2019, which is 1.6 % more than in 2018. Compared to the previous year, the number of nights spent by visitors increased by 2.6 %, reaching 5.51 million in 2019.

Experts approve Riga Central Station’s Rail Baltica regional train reception solution

A solution has been found to install a four-lane railway section at Riga Central Railway Station to replace the existing two-lane section. This will help secure not only international and airport connectivity for Rail Baltica trains but also further improve intercity and suburban train services, as reported by the project’s representatives.

Beness Aijo asks Vladimir Putin for political asylum; claims Russia has released him

Beness Aijo, who fled Latvia to avoid criminal prosecution for calls of a violent overthrowing of the government, has asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to provide him political asylum. He also claims Russian authorities have released him from custody.

Share prices plummet on stock markets over concerns for coronavirus

On Thursday, 13 February, share prices around the world plummeted as concerns over the Covid-19 coronavirus epidemic in China. London Stock Exchange index declined shortly after British Finance Minister Sajid Javid’s sudden resignation.

Saeima to add considerable amendments to Criminal Procedure Law

On Thursday, 13 February, Latvian Saeima approved amendments to the Criminal Procedure Law that provide the duty to provide truth in testimony if a person uses the right to testify.

Week’s end in Latvia will be snowy, rainy and windy

Strong wind, which may reach a speed of 25 m/sec along the coast, is expected at this week’s end in Latvia. Air temperature, however, will remain mostly unchanged, as reported by Latvian State Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

National Alliance and New Unity may run in Riga City Council elections separately

Following the decision made by the New Conservative Party to run in upcoming Riga City Council snap elections separately, a similar decision will likely be made by the National Alliance «All for Latvia – For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK» and New Unity.

Airbnb and Vilnius sign «historic» agreement, taxmen to zero in on short-term rentals

Long chastised for little regulation, Airbnb, a popular short-term rentals platform, was praised this week in Lithuania after capital city Vilnius and Airbnb inked an agreement, envisioning that from February 1 onwards Airbnb will automatically collect Vilnius city tourism tax due per night and per person and transfer the sum directly to the City of Vilnius on behalf of hosts.

Latvian parliament dissolves Riga City Council

The Saeima has decided to dissolve Riga City Council. The city council remains active, however, because the law on its dismissal will come to force the next day after its promulgation. Now President Egils Levits has ten days to make his decision on the promulgation.

Tallinn residents reject proposal to limit driving speed to 40 km/h

Residents of Tallinn have rejected mayor Mihhail Kõlvart’s proposal to limit driving speed within city limits to 40 km/h, forcing the municipality to look for other ways to control road traffic speed, as reported by Estonian public media ERR.

Journalists Kalderauska and Eglītis approved as members of National Electronic Mass Media Council

On Thursday, 13 February, Latvia’s Saeima approved journalists Ieva Kalderauska and Jānis Eglītis as new members of the National Electronic Mass Media Council.

European Parliament urges putting an end to illegal pet trade

To protect animal welfare, pet owners and public health, the European Parliament urges the European Union to come up with an action plan to put an end to illegal pet trade, BNN was informed by EP press-secretary in Latvia Jānis Krastiņš.

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!