Michael Weiss and Holger Roonemaa report:
A leaked internal strategy document from Vladimir Putin’s executive office and obtained by Yahoo News lays out a detailed plan on how Russia plans to take full control over neighboring Belarus in the next decade under the pretext of a merger between the two countries. The document outlines in granular detail a creeping annexation by political, economic and military means of an independent but illiberal European nation by Russia, which is an active state of war in its bid to conquer Ukraine through overwhelming force.
“Russia’s goals with regards to Belarus are the same as with Ukraine,” Michael Carpenter, the U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, told Yahoo News. “Only in Belarus, it relies on coercion rather than war. Its end goal is still wholesale incorporation.”
According to the document, issued in fall 2021, the end goal is the formation of a so-called Union State of Russia and Belarus by no later than 2030. Everything involved in the merger of the two countries has been considered, including the “harmonization” of Belarusian laws with those of the Russian Federation; a “coordinated foreign and defense policy” and “trade and economic cooperation … on the basis of the priority” of Russian interests; and “ensuring the predominant influence of the Russian Federation in the socio-political, trade-economic, scientific-educational and cultural-information spheres.”
In practice, this would eliminate whatever remains of Belarus’s sovereignty and reduce a country about the size of Kansas, with 9.3 million people, to the status of a Moscow satellite. It would put Belarusians at the mercy of the Kremlin’s priorities, whether in agriculture, industry, espionage or war. And it would pose a security threat to Belarus’s European neighbors, three of which — Latvia, Lithuania and Poland — are members of NATO and the European Union. [Continue reading…]