In February, Yahoo News reported that it obtained an internal strategy document from the Kremlin detailing how Russia plans to take over neighboring Belarus within the next ten years by merging the two countries.
According to the leaked document, written in the fall of 2021, the goal is to form a Union State of Russia and Belarus by 2030 at the latest. It outlines what would be involved in this merger, including harmonizing Belarusian laws with those of Russia and coordinating the two countries’ defense policy, foreign policy, trade, and economy to prioritize Russian interests.
The plan would ensure that Russia has “predominant influence” over all spheres from the economy to education and politics to culture.
In reality, however, Russia’s plan would eliminate the sovereignty of Belarus and reduce the country of 9.3 million people to a Russian satellite, putting Belarusians entirely at the mercy of Moscow’s priorities.
What’s more, a merger between Russia and Belarus would also place the country’s European neighbors at greater risk, including NATO and EU member countries Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland.
Exiled Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tsikhanovskaya told Yahoo News that the so-called “Union State” threatens both the people and sovereignty of Belarus, arguing that such a merger would not be a “union of equals” but a “roadmap” for Russia to absorb Belarus.
According to one Western official who reviewed the document, it is likely that it was produced by the Presidential Directorate for Cross-Border Cooperation which is part of the Kremlin’s Presidential Administration.
The Directorate is tasked with exerting control over countries Moscow views as within its sphere of influence, including Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, and Ukraine.
Rainer Saks, Estonia’s former head of the Foreign Intelligence Service told Yahoo News that the information in the leaked document is not surprising, noting that Russia wants to take control of Belarus. Saks said the only surprising thing is that the Kremlin has set a target of 2030, adding “Why should Russia wait so long?”