On a visit to Russia’s oil-extracting Komi Republic yesterday, Belarusan President Alyaksandr Lukashenka described the Russia-Belarus Union as an intermediate stage toward a far more ambitious goal. If successful, that union will “pull Ukraine in,” leaving Kazakhstan “afraid to separate itself from Russia,” Lukashenka predicted. His forecast seemed to assume a leftist electoral victory in Ukraine and intimidation of Kazakhstan from the north.
“We can then create an all-powerful, strong and mighty Empire, a Union of fraternal peoples,” Lukashenka went on, using synonymously the Tsarist-era and Soviet descriptions of the Russian great power. The enlargement would offset “U.S. hegemony,” overcome today’s “destructive uni-polarity” and create “a real counterweight to U.S. policies.”
In a passing shot at Britain, Lukashenka dismissed the suggestion of that country’s ambassador to Belarus that the presidential election be held this year. “Why does Britain interfere with our elections? After all we don’t instruct Britain when to crown a monarch!”
Lukashenka is commonly suspected of seeking a role for himself on the world stage through the Russia-Belarus Union. If so, he took an early step in that direction on February 9 when his National Assembly, the upper chamber of the Belarusan parliament, ratified the December 25, 1998 Yeltsin-Lukashenka agreement on equating the rights of Russian and Belarusan citizens. One provision in the agreement entitles citizens of both countries to vote and run in elections for leadership posts in the Russia-Belarus Union, whose president Lukashenka reportedly aspires to become (Russian agencies, ORT, February 10, 11).
MOSCOW PREPARED TO PLAY REGIONAL CARD ON GEORGIA’S PERIPHERIES.