Asia-Pacific

Belarus

An Ambivalent Couple

For two countries supposedly on the verge of forming a loose union, Belarus and Russia seem to have a good deal of ambivalence about their relationship.

As Oleg Odnokolenko writes in Moscow’s liberal Sevodnya of Oct. 27, “The draft of the Union Treaty between Russia and Belarus that was recently published definitely does not suit anyone: not those who aspire to recreate the Soviet Union in a limited territory, nor the supporters of friendly sovereignty in the European manner.”

When Russians were asked in a poll whether they expected to “benefit personally” from the union between Russia and Belarus, reports Sevodnya (Oct. 28), two-thirds of the respondents said no. The percentage of Belarussians who support the union dropped from 45 to 35 between June and September, according to an article in Itogi (Nov. 2).

Yuri Drakokhrust and Aleksandr Ryklin write that Belarussians “want sovereignty and integration, they want to receive Russian wages with Belarussian regularity, and they want Russia to protect them from NATO—but they don’t want to send their soldiers to Chechnya.”

The union is still on track, but a recent visit to Moscow by authoritarian Belarussian President Aleksandr Luka- shenko probably did not bring about a change of heart in Russia. The Communist majority gave him a warm welcome in parliament, but the liberal Yabloko bloc walked out on his address.

Under the headline “Two Hours of Dictatorship,” Yevgeny Yuryev reported in Sevodnya that Lukashenko chided the Russians for “getting on your knees before those crooks at the International Monetary Fund” and urged the Kremlin “not to be defensive” about Chechnya in its dealings with the West.

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