Will Belarus Be the Next Ukraine?

Why the Brewing Conflict Between Moscow and Minsk Is Bad News

Lukashenko and Putin in Minsk, February 2016 Sputnik Photo Agency / Reuters

As political upheaval, a slow-burning war with Russia, and a general sense of chaos have engulfed Ukraine over the past six years, neighboring Belarus has come to seem like an oasis of stability: stagnant but calm. In recent weeks, that calm has been shattered by oil cutoffs, protests, government shuffles, snap military exercises, and sharp criticism of Russia by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

Belarus owes its stability in part to a closeness with Russia that it has never strongly resisted. But the equilibrium of that relationship has begun to change as Russia has stepped up efforts to yoke Belarus even more tightly to Moscow. Last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin began pushing to revive a half-forgotten agreement, the 1999 Union Treaty, which would allow the two countries to harmonize nearly every aspect of public policy. Some Kremlin officials have even implied that they would pursue political integration with Belarus, including a

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