Russian president Boris Yeltsin announced on television last night that he, Belarus president Aleksandr Lukashenko, and their governments are preparing documents to be signed in the next few weeks, envisaging a confederal association of the two countries. He and Lukashenko have concluded that the two neighboring Slavic peoples need no borders and no customs regulations between them, Yeltsin said. Russia and Belarus are to set up a joint executive organ co-chaired by deputy prime ministers, which will be empowered to issue binding decisions on "in-depth integration" and laying the basis for a confederation. Yeltsin claimed that advances on economic reforms in Belarus made legislative unification with Russia possible. Coincidentally, ultranationalist editor Aleksandr Prokhanov praised Lukashenko as a leader destined to unite Belarus with Russia and promote original ideas on economic reforms. (11)
Lukashenko had indicated after his February 27-28 meeting with Yeltsin in Moscow that a confederation of the two countries was under discussion. Lukashenko made it clear that he continued to link a political merger to Russian financing of the unreformed Belarus economy. Reformers in the Russian government have opposed such a tradeoff, but Yeltsin now apparently seeks to overturn that argument. Even short of a political confederation, a Russia-Belarus military alliance would overturn the post-cold war balance of power in central Europe. Significant groups in the new Belarus parliament have evidenced support for national sovereignty, but the firmness of that support has yet to be put to the test.
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