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Putin is worse than Stalin

: Alexander Kornilov  

Such is the conclusion made by the Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko after a week of pondering on Vladimir Putins proposals concerning the unification of the two neighbouring states into a single one. Eventually, Lukashenko has found the right words and brought himself to respond to Putins plan that envisages the outright unification of the two states and calling the presidential election in March 2004.

In the opinion of the Belarusian leader, the Russian leadership is deliberately making proposals that are unacceptable to us and insulting. Even Lenin and Stalin had not contemplated dividing Belarus and incorporating the country into the RSFSR (Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic) or into the USSR, Lukashenko said on Wednesday during his meeting with the Chairman of the Dagestani State Council Magomedali Magomedov, who has arrived in Minsk on a working visit.

Remarkably, when detailing his plan of merging the two states into a single one at his meeting with Lukashenko last week Vladimir Putin did not utter a single word about dividing Belarus. All that he suggested was the creation of a ''unified state in the fullest sense of the word''. To that end, as early as May 2003 both countries should hold referendums on the issue of unification. If the peoples of Russia and Belarus say yes to the merger, then ''an election to a unified parliament could be held in December 2003, and a presidential vote in March 2004,'' Putin said.

As for the forced division of Belarus prior to its absorption by Russia, Vladimir Putins plan envisaged nothing of a kind. Obviously, having thoroughly analyzed Putins proposals, the Belarusian leader himself concluded that Moscows plan implies such division.

Moreover, it appears that in his reasoning Lukashenko is not too wide of the mark, after all, for should the two states unite (to be more exact should Russia de facto absorb Belarus), Moscow most likely would preserve the existing administrative division of the Republic, possibly uniting the existing Belarusian regions into the new western federal district in the likeness of Russias seven federal districts. (Back in 2000, in the framework of his power vertical reform aimed at strengthening the federal centre Vladimir Putin has sliced the enormous Russian territory into 7 federal districts. By this move the Kremlin pursued the goal to curb the hitherto unlimited powers of governors in the regions).

Obviously, Alexander Lukashenko has better plans than to relinquish presidency and to become, at best, the Kremlins errand-boy. For, if Putins plan were ever implemented, Lukashenkos chances to stay at power would diminish to a post of the governor of Belarus, or, which is even less likely, to that of the presidential envoy to the new western federal district). Hence is such an angry response of the Belarusian leader to Putins plan which Lukashenko perceives through the prism of his personal ambitions.

As for the second option proposed by Putin a week ago suggesting that the countries could form something in the likeness of the European Union with a union parliament as its head, this option too was rejected by Lukashenko. Just like Putin, Lukashenko chose not to go into the details, saying only that such option does not suit Belarus.

And that is true, indeed, for if the two countries move to form a union parliament, both Belarus and Russia will have to partially delegate their sovereignty to it. And given Russias demographic and territorial superiority, the majority of seats in that parliament would be held by Russian representatives, which inevitably will push the national interests of Belarus into the background.

Therefore, it appears that Lukashenko is partly right. But only party, since by continuing to seek the creation of some amorphous union state, he continues to erroneously assume that the union on par is possible between the two states. On Wednesday Lukashenko called for preserving the federative treaty that he signed with the ex-Russian president Boris Yeltsin in 1999, for creation of an equal, friendly union.

In actual fact, such union is scarcely possible given the enormous difference in economic, military, demographic and natural resources potentials of the two states. Putin, to all appearances, tried to explain that to Lukashenko in familiar terms, but to no avail. Instead, his words have only deeply hurt the Belarusian leader.

Lukashenko has even devised his own explanation to Putins latest move. In the opinion of the Belarusian leader, the true goal that Russia pursues is to prevent the union from existing, and namely that is why Russian leadership deliberately makes proposals that are unacceptable for the Belarusian side.

Lukashenko did not clarify why, in his opinion, Putin is set to hinder the unification of the two states. Instead, he asserted that the work aimed at integration of the two states may continue on the basis of the existing treaty on creation on the union state. "I can't destroy a federative treaty, which cost me a lot of work, and which is very dear not only to me, but also to the former (Boris Yeltsins) leadership of Russia," Lukashenko said.

At the same time, he said Belarus is not against "an equal, friendly union" between the two countries. "We will never accept proposals aimed at preventing this union from existing," Lukashenko said. "We will do everything to save this union, regardless of the fact that it is very weak."

Most importantly, the Belarusian President continued, the union should be made attractive, so that former Soviet republics, at least Ukraine, would strive, to join it.

In this connection one should give the Dagestani leader his due. Magomedali Magomedov found himself in a rather awkward diplomatic situation: in his presence the head of another state publicly lashed out at the president of his own country. Dagestani leader wisely remained silent, allowing his interlocutor to speak his mind. And Lukashenko willingly grabbed the opportunity and used it to the fullest. Judging by his vehement speech it appears highly unlikely that the heads of the two states which leaders of old once dreamt of forming a strong, equal, friendly union would meet again anytime soon. At the current stage of development of bilateral relations neither of the parties expresses great interest in further cooperation.

22 14:04


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