We have written frequently at Tsarizm about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s machinations to attempt to stay in power for a fifth term when this one expires in 2024. The Russian constitution prevents presidents to stay in office for longer. It seems the Kremlin is possibly now taking steps to cement the current weak Union State political arrangement with Belarus into exactly that — a true political integration and a path for Putin to stay in power as a ‘new’ constitution would have to be ratified.
On Tuesday, Russia suddenly removed its ambassador to Belarus, Mikhail Babich, who had been an outspoken advocate for closer ties. This took place amid a dispute over oil supplies, but some speculated it was part of a deal to speed up integration between the two countries, wrote Russian news outlet The Bell.
From The Bell:
- According to an anonymous source cited (Rus) in Kommersant newspaper, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko told Putin that the removal of Babich was a condition for speeding up the integration process, and Lukashenko has promised to go ahead with this (according to a 1999 agreement between the two countries, this would involve a single pension system, a single currency, coordination of laws and unified energy, transport and telecommunications systems).
- The dismissal of Babich occurred amid a row between Moscow and Minsk over contaminated oil supplies passing through the Druzhba pipeline, one of the oldest transport routes for Russian crude. Druzhba (which means, literally, ‘friendship’) supplies 8% of the EU’s oil imports, as well as fuel for Belarusian refineries that then export oil products to Eastern Europe and the Baltics. Lukashenko has said that, because of 5 million tonnes of contaminated crude, Belarus has had to stop accepting deliveries and halted exports of oil products. After discussions with Putin, they have said that they plan to partially reinstate supplies within a week.
Lukashenko has long resisted Moscow’s demands for closer ties, preventing Putin from establishing a Russian air base in-country as well as opening up Belarus to the European Union.
The acquisition of ‘White Russia’ would add to Putin’s legacy as a Russian leader who added territory to the empire, while also providing the added benefit of a path to retain power.
The curious circumstance of the Russian pipeline contamination, which harmed the Belarusian economy, and of which the Kremlin’s explanations made no sense, provide evidence that Moscow is giving Minsk an offer it can’t refuse — Join or die.