The Kremlin’s recent demand that Belarus integrate further with the Russian state in return for financial support has sparked concerns that Russia may annex its neighbor. Such a move, some analysts suggest, would allow President Vladimir Putin to remain in office after 2024. But this scenario is rife with unpredictable risks for Russia and is based upon several incorrect myths about modern Belarus.
A new confrontation between Belarus and Russia over oil revenues and political integration has delivered a serious blow to the two countries’ long-standing alliance. There are talks that even the Belarusian independence is under threat. Faced with a choice between more money and more sovereignty, Minsk will inevitably choose sovereignty. In the long run, this conflict demonstrates the gradual breakdown of Russian-Belarusian “brotherhood.”
In post-revolutionary Armenia, the old ruling elite has had to come to terms with new realities. Chief among these is the power of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, whose electoral bloc and allies now control parliament. Those who deny or challenge Pashinyan’s dominance risk having their companies audited and their homes searched, and even being arrested; not even former presidents are safe. Hence the decision of many Republican Party figures to acquiesce to or join Pashinyan, whose measured approach has so far allowed him to avoid conflict with either the public or the old ruling elite.
The video propaganda glorifying Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov has reached new heights of absurdity. The personality cult is trying to distract the public from their economic problems and outdo the glorification of his predecessor.
Unexpectedly, Baku has begun to debate joining the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). However, Azeri rhetoric aside, until Baku comes to see accession to the “Eurasian NATO” as critical to regaining control over Nagorno-Karabakh—its top political priority—it is unlikely to pursue CSTO membership, just as it has declined to participate in other multilateral initiatives in which Yerevan is involved.
Recent changes in the Belarusian government only affect the socioeconomic sector. The doves from the Foreign Ministry and the hawks from the security services remain untouched, because the reshuffle has little to do with the foreign policy agenda: it’s the economic situation that concerns President Lukashenko the most.
In the Caspian region, gas issues have been relegated to second place for both Russia and Iran, while the top priority is security. Both countries are trying above all to prevent the presence in the Caspian Sea of states from outside the region, especially any military presence. This chiefly concerns the United States, and no one is attempting to hide that.
Judging by how they are preparing for it, the Belarusian authorities apparently expect that a threat to stability could arise quite soon. It’s not clear how they envisage the source of the danger: economic problems, an information attack from the East or West, or perhaps they are contemplating carrying out painful reforms. But what is clear is that they have serious concerns about how non-state media would behave if something did happen.
The case against ex-president Robert Kocharyan has become the most explosive episode in Armenian politics since this past spring’s Velvet Revolution. It has unnerved Moscow, as well as Kocharyan’s allies in Yerevan, with the former fearing that Armenia is pivoting to the West and the latter accusing the Nikol Pashinyan government of political persecution. But the case against Kocharyan is neither geopolitical nor the beginning of a campaign of terror—it is all about the March 1 affair, Armenia’s Bloody Sunday.
In the past few years, Minsk has started citing Russia as its main threat—but only as a theory intended primarily for external consumption. Now it has been dangled before domestic audiences.