Expert: Lukashenko adds percent to Putin's election rating
On February 13 President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko approved the agreement on the joint protection of borders of the State Union of Belarus and Russia in airspace, and also on the creation of the unified regional air defense system. And the document has been signed by defense ministers of both countries already in 2009.
Which country will eventually de facto command the joint defense? Will Belarus lose in sovereignty? And whether the presidential approving decree is connected with his appeal to Russia to help the Belarusian army with finances? Finally, why to wait two years to approve the agreement? UDF.BY correspondent addressed these questions to experts.
"I'll tell you more: negotiations began in 1999, this project is much older!", military expert Alexander Alesin explains the waiting. "Reasons of the late statement are economic contradictions between Russia and Belarus. The project has become a bargaining chip, and the bargain was not completed even after signing, because once again contradictions around the gas emerged, oil prices and supply of our food in Russia".
But the point is not even in the resolution of these issues. By this move Lukashenko adds percent to Putin's election rating, whom the agreement's approval with Belarus will be attributed as a merit in foreign policy. In the country with notorious imperial ambitions, this is a trump card in the game called "elections".
"The integration card is very important. There is an unspoken agreement, which, I think was made during the last visit of Putin to Minsk in March of the last year. And Russia is close to elections. Here is the reason", the expert says.
Who will actually command the unified regional air defense system? Alexander Alesin believes that all depends on the relationship between presidents after the elections. Meanwhile, the question is postponed along with economic arguments, because "the parties need each other". But even then, "a new pause is not ruled out, and even this statement won't become a go-ahead for the project's implementation".
"Delegation of authorities to Moscow to open fire in case of intrusion of an air object into Belarus may lead to unpredictable consequences", the expert continued. "But the most difficult question is again postponed and will be decided after the agreement takes effect, because it doesn't take effect immediately: there is an interim period. Previously it was assumed that either the Russian and Belarusian generals will command one by one, or this post will be filled only in case of special-threatening circumstances".
Whether the request Lukashenko about the Russian financial assistance to the army is connected with the approval of the document? A number of coincidences makes many to the affirmative answer to this question, but the military expert questioned the essential link between these events, considering the document as formal:
"This is the old and long lasting project, and the air defense systems of Russia and Belarus are constantly exchanging the data, down to the each start-up position online. And the rest is only a formality - who will give the order. Therefore, I do not see an absolute connection", Alesin concluded.
"The agreement has been already accepted, and it worked, I'm sure of it", former Defense Minister of Belarus Pavel Kozlovsky agreed with the expert. However, he expressed the view that the unified regional air defense system with Russia does not mean the loss of sovereignty for Belarus.
"It is beneficial to both countries. We have once started to work out it when I was the first minister of defense, and I remain the advocate of this approach to this day. There are different regional systems: European, American-Canadian, etc. And all of them function successfully, it is beneficial to all", the former minister said.