>The Union (or United) State of Russia and Belarus is the keystone in the soon-to-be-restored Soviet Union, while the Commonwealth of Independent States serves as a pillar in the revitalized Soviet project. The “ex”-CPSU dictators of Russia and Belarus, Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko respectively, are scheduled to meet in Belarus’ capital Minsk on December 13 and 14 to accelerate the process of political and economic union. The AP story below notes that “post”-communist Belarus has a “Soviet-style economy” that is propped up by cheap Gazprom energy. “Creation of a Russia-Belarus union,” AP also observes, “would give Putin a chance to remain in charge for many years to come.” The pecking order in the neo-Soviet hierarchy is evident, moreover, in the following quote: “Many analysts, though, are skeptical that the Kremlin can persuade Lukashenko to accept any plan that would make him subordinate to Putin.”
For the reader’s information, the two Belarusian politicians quoted below are communists, although this is not stated by the journalist. Sergei Kostyan is deputy head of foreign affairs committee in the Belarusian parliament, a member of the pro-Lukashenko Communist Party of Belarus, and head of the new Slavic Parliamentary Union. “Ex”-CPSU Stanislav Shushkevich, along with Boris Yeltsin and Leonid Kravchuk, presided over the dismantling of the Soviet Union on December 8, 1991. Until then Shushkevich had been chair of the Supreme Soviet of the Byelorusian Soviet Socialist Republic and was subsequently chair of the Belarusian Supreme Soviet until 1994. Shushkyevich is on the Stalinists’ hit list of “counter-revolutionaries” at the Soviet Belarus Internet forum.
Putin to discuss union with Belarus
Posted on Thu, Dec. 06, 2007
By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV – Associated Press Writer
MOSCOW –President Vladimir Putin and other top Russia and Belarus officials will consider next week a proposed framework for the long-debated merger of the two countries into a single state, officials said Thursday.
The unexpected move, coming at a time of uncertainty over Russia’s political future, raised speculation that Putin may seek to become leader of the new country created by the merger. That would permit him to step down as Russian president next May, as required by the constitution, but become chief of the enlarged state.
Belarus’ presidential office said Putin would attend a Dec. 13-14 meeting in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, that would focus on a draft constitution of a Russia-Belarus union. It gave no details, but any constitution would describe the union’s governmental structure.
Analysts and news organizations have speculated for years that Putin could become the president of a combined Russian-Belarusian state. But talks over the merger have been mired in disagreements, particularly over the status of Belarus in the new union.
Asked if the meeting would pave the way for Putin’s election as president of a Russia-Belarus union, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told The Associated Press: “I don’t know anything about such issue being on the agenda.”
Sergei Kostyan, a deputy head of foreign affairs committee in the Belarusian parliament, said he saw no movement toward a merger of the two countries.
“Putin’s visit will produce no sensations,” he told the AP. “Belarus has and will remain an independent country, and Minsk has very clearly said that to our Kremlin colleagues.”
But others said the Kremlin may have made Belarus’ President Alexander Lukashenko an offer he would find hard to resist – such as the vice presidency under Putin.
“Such a plan would be a lifesaver for Putin, allowing him to become the leader of a new geopolitical structure without changing Russia’s constitution,” Stanislav Shushkevich, who led Belarus in 1991-94, told the AP.
Putin, whose approval ratings in November were over 80 percent, said he wouldn’t run in the March 2 election because of the constitution’s two-term limit. But he has pledged to retain his enormous influence over Russian government and politics.
Putin’s party, United Russia, won a crushing victory in Sunday’s parliamentary vote, and his supporters called the election a vote of confidence that would allow Putin to remain a “national leader.”
The Russian president has left the door open to becoming prime minister, and others suggested he could retain power by leading the United Russia party. He is expected to name a preferred successor who would be all but guaranteed to win the presidency.
Creation of a Russia-Belarus union would give Putin a chance to remain in charge for many years to come.
Any proposed merger would be subject to approval in two national referendums, but the measure could win easy approval because both nations share strong cultural and historic ties.
Yevgeny Volk, head of the Heritage Foundation’s Moscow office, said the Kremlin has long toyed with the notion of Putin leading a combined Russia-Belarus union in the past.
“It’s not 100 percent probable, but it’s definitely a possibility,” he told the AP.
Russia and Belarus signed a union agreement in 1996 which envisaged close political, economic and military ties and eventual full merger.
During the 1990s, Lukashenko – who has been called “Europe’s last dictator” by Western critics – pushed for the creation of a single state, apparently hoping to lead it. At the time, the president of Russia was the ailing, politically compromised Boris Yeltsin.
Lukashenko’s ambitions were shattered by Putin’s election in 2000.
Two years later, Lukashenko angrily rejected a Kremlin proposal for incorporating Belarus into the Russian Federation – a plan that would have effectively left him without job.
“Lukashenko isn’t enthusiastic about this idea because he would lose power,” Shushkevich told the AP. “But a threat of another hike in oil and gas prices could force him to accept it.”
Earlier this year, Lukashenko denounced Russia as a “huge monster” when Russia more than doubled the price of natural gas and imposed a customs duty that made oil more expensive.
Belarus was forced to yield control of its national gas pipeline company to Russia – a move long sought by Gazprom, the Russian gas monopoly.
Despite the acrimony, the two nations maintain close ties. Cheap Russian energy is critical to propping up Lukashenko’s Soviet-style economy.
Many analysts, though, are skeptical that the Kremlin can persuade Lukashenko to accept any plan that would make him subordinate to Putin.
“Lukashenko won’t allow Putin to turn the union state into a springboard for another term,” said Yaroslav Romanchuk, a Minsk-based independent political analyst.
Source: The State
The Union State already has a common budget and air defense system. In October, on the occasion of Belarusian Defense Minister Leonid Maltsev’s visit to Moscow, Russian DM Anatoly Serdyukov, son-in-law of “ex”-CPSU Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov, “said he was very satisfied with the work accomplished by the bilateral defense panel during his visit, and pledged to continue developing a legal base for a Union State military organization.”
The AP article above touches upon an important topic that has generated a lot of speculation in both the Russian and Western media: Putin’s post-presidential career. In September we reported that Sergei Baburin, the “ex”-CPSU deputy speaker of the State Duma, had asserted that Putin wants to become head of the Union State. The Belarusian website Naviny reported at the time: “Mr. Baburin went on to say that the Kremlin should cancel the coming parliamentary and presidential votes in Russia, hold a referendum on the Union State’s Constitutional Act and vest Mr. Putin with powers of governing the Union State.” Since then speculation also swirled around the possibilty of Putin becoming head of United Russia, prime minister, Duma speaker, or “national leader” in an as-yet constitutionally undefined role after he steps down from the presidency in May 2008.
Now that Putin, according to communist organ Pravda, has “washed his hands” of the Duma election and the potemkin “party of power” United Russia, rumors are once again circulating that the KGB dictator is angling for the post of Union State president. Both Minsk and Moscow, however, are denying the rumors. “This information remains on the conscience of its inventors,” Lukashenko spokesentity Pavel Lyogky told Interfax. Lyogky is accompanying the Belarusian dictator on his current visit to Venezuela, where Comrade Alex’s good buddy Hugo Chavez recently lost a referendum that would have expedited the communization of that benighted South American nation. “As for these media reports, they are rather speculative fantasies,” a source in the Kremlin informed Interfax.
The independent St. Petersburg Times relates that Putin will not take his Duma seat anytime in the near future and thus his name will probably be placed on a reserve list of candidates. The same source reports that “Demands to formalize Putin’s future role have topped the agenda of his United Russia party . . .”
Meanwhile, Yabloko and the Union of Right Forces, neither of which passed the seven percent threshold needed to secure seats in the Duma, are supporting the Communist Party of the Russian Federation/Soviet Union’s legal challenge against the potemkin United Russia. Vice Chairman Ivan Melnikov contends that contrary to the Central Election Commission’s initial reports, the CPRF received 18 or 19 percent of the vote, rather than 11. Melnikov also contends that the pro-Kremlin Just Russia did not hurdle the threshold and thus, should receive no seats in the Duma. The official election results will be announced tomorrow. State-owned Kommersant Daily notes that the CPRF did not recognize the 2003 parliamentary election results either, but that its legal challenge at the time was “ineffectual.” Pictured above: Journalists watch the election results at the CPRF headquarters in Moscow, December 2, 2007.
Communists Won’t Recognize Election, Will Go to Duma
Dec. 07, 2007
The Communists are not recognizing the results of the State Duma elections in Russia, calling them unjust and falsified. The presidium of the Central Council of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation has decided to hold protest actions December 20-22, including a march in Moscow, and to dispute the election results in the Supreme Court of Russia. The Union of Right Forces and Yabloko will support the Communists in court. The party lawyers also intend to appeal to the Prosecutor General.
Communist Party observers filed so many protocols from the elections that they have only been able to process 35 percent of them so far. First Deputy Chairman of the Central Committee of the Party Ivan Melnikov said that United Russia’s results were over overstated by about 5 percent and the Communist Party’s understated by about 2 percent. The Communist leader also expressed doubt that the Just Russia Party actually passed the seven-percent barrier for representation in the Duma.
In the meantime, the Communists are not turning down the five seats they are entitled to under the election results as they stand. Central Committee Secretary for Legal Issues Vadim Solovyev pointed out that the Central Election Commission cannot announce the official election results until all complaints have been heard, although an announcement is to be made on December 8. The Party’s appeal to the Supreme Court against the election results of 2003 was ineffectual. The European Court of Human Rights hears election cases for up to seven years after the fact, however.
Yabloko and SPS, like every other party in “post”-communist Russia is connected through their leadership to the old Soviet regime. The St. Petersburg Times reports that Yabloko plans to dump its long-time leader “ex”-Soviet apparatchik Grigory Yavlinsky in view of the party’s miserable performance in the latest Duma election. United Russia will formally nominate its presidential candidate on December 17, while the CPRF will do so on December 22, in conjunction with, as reported above, a protest march through Moscow. Tellingly but not surprisingly, Sergei Mironov, leader of the potemkin Just Russia, has announced that his party will not nominate its own candidate, but more than likely throw its support behind the United Russia nominee. Finally, contrary to earlier reports, former prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov no longer appears to be supporting Zyuganov, but rather will advance his own candidacy for the People’s Democratic Union.