Monday, March 20, 2006

Belarus's Lukashenko Eyeing Presidency Of Post-Putin Russian-Belarusian Authoritarian Union

..."Russia is keen to bolster military ties with its partner to the west [Belarus]. Moscow is interested in using Belarussian military facilities and negotiations have begun on the opening of an airbase in Belarus.

But a much-touted union between Russia and Belarus has been slow to take shape.

Talks on the alliance, which has been in the pipeline for more than a decade, have stalled because Mr Putin and Mr Lukashenko cannot agree on the form it should take, according to Nikolai Petrov, an expert with the Carnegie Moscow Centre, a leading think-tank.

"Huge differences in their economies mean the two would not be equal partners," he told the BBC. "Also, Lukashenko is still hoping to become head of the union, but Putin would not want that."

Most analysts agree that there is little chemistry between the two heads of state.

"It is obvious that [Putin] and Lukashenko are like close relatives who actually can't stand each other," writes Yulia Kalinina in Monday's Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper. "At their meetings, they smile and kiss, but when they've departed they lean against the wall, breathe a sigh of relief and say 'Ugh!'"

The difficulty now for Mr Putin is steering a path between supporting a regime run by a man dubbed by Washington as "Europe's last dictator" and appeasing members of the G8, whose presidency he currently holds.

"Moscow's continuing ties with Belarus cast doubt on its own democratic intentions," said Yevgeny Volk. "And that leaves it open to serious criticism for its support of Lukashenko's administration.""

Chloe Arnold "Belarus: Russia's awkward ally" BBC News Moscow March 20, 2006.


MOSCOW, March 20 (Itar-Tass) - "Belarussian leader Alexander Lukashenko believes it is possible to introduce the post of president of the Union State of Russia and Belarus.

"I don't rule out such a possibility, everything's possible in life," Lukashenko told a news conference in Minsk.

He also said it is possible to create one army, secret service and law-enforcement of Belarus and Russia.

However, he noted that at present, the Union State places an emphasis on economic integration. He added that others countries should join this process - the development of the union state.

"If Russians are interested in the expansion of the union state, we are ready to join it," Lukashenko said."

ITAR-TASS News Agency "Post of Russia-Belarus president possible - Alexander Lukashenko" March 20, 2006

Russia's Gazprom monopoly is now pumping more gas westwards to Europe via Belarus.

Photo credit: Agence France Presse With thanks.


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