News from the Arab Press

Putin Plans To Extend His Presidency Through A Union With Belarus

By Asaf Zilberfarb | The Media Line

March 12, 2019

Russian President Vladimir Putin visits the 104th Guard Air Assault Regiment of the 76th Guard Air Assault Division in Pskov on March 1, 2013. (Photo: MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/AFP/Getty Images)

Al-Anba, Kuwait, March 8

A debate emerged in recent years among Western diplomats about the “post-Putin” era. This topic has been the subject of several closed-door symposia that sought to answer the following question: Who will come after Vladimir Putin, the Russian president who has been in charge of the country—whether as president or prime minister—since the beginning of the 21st century? One participant said he thought Russia after Putin would become dull. “Putin is a transitional figure in many respects. He was a KGB agent in East Germany and witnessed its collapse. He returned to Russia and saw the collapse of the Soviet Union. Therefore, he is not trying to revive the Soviet Union or to re-establish the Russian empire. What he is trying is to create something new.” All experts agree that the question of what will become of Russia in the post-Putin era is at the forefront of Russian elites’ agenda. They have been thinking about this since he was elected president in 2000. One of the scenarios they are talking about is that Putin will resist the two-term limit imposed upon him, which will put him out of office in 2024. How can he circumvent this? The scenario being put forward is that he will carry out an “Anschluss” over Belarus and annex the latter as part of Russia, just as Germany did with Austria in World War II. This idea is now on paper. Putin, as president of this new union, will be able serve two new terms after his current one ends in 2024. So many people are really worried about this, especially in Minsk, the capital of Belarus. “I was in Belarus last November and had a meeting with President Alexander Lukashenko, and it seemed to me that he was very concerned. We know that he [Putin] is a dictator and not a nice person, but what is particularly worrying now is that Russia will try to take over all of Belarus’ institutions,” said one participant in the meeting. The repeated meetings between Putin and Lukashenko throughout 2018 did not ease the bilateral tensions between Moscow and Minsk. The meeting of the two presidents in February in Sochi also did not achieve a solution, and the talks are expected to continue. Russian elites know that they will have to openly declare their loyalty to Putin and his campaign against the West. –Hada al-Husseini

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