MOSCOW, February 25. /TASS/. Russian and Belarusian Presidents Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko may have discussed a model of further integration between Moscow and Minsk during their recent talks in Sochi, among other issues, head of the Belarusian Studies Center at the Institute of Europe under the Russian Academy of Sciences Nikolai Mezhevich told TASS on Wednesday.
He stressed that so far, not much is known about the contents of the meeting, however, the talks themselves show that the leaders aim to develop relations further. "Another thing is obvious: the relations will not develop easily. Because if we were sure of that, there would be no point for the leaders to meet for such a long time," Mezhevich added, commenting on the talks that lasted for over six hours.
"This means that we are facing some complicated, perhaps even painful search for an integration model that on the other hand would take into account what Lukashenko said on [the importance of maintaining] sovereignty, and on the other hand, would correspond to the second part of his speech at the All-Belarusian People's Assembly, that is, to what he said about the need to develop integration," the expert explained.
The analyst pointed out that mutual approval of these matters is a key goal that should be achieved in order for the integration process to continue. In his opinion, the Belarusian side complicates this issue, as Russian sovereignty is unlikely to be harmed during the integration process, while the Belarusian one could face some damage.
Despite the development of integration organizations in the modern world, "there is no ideal recipe" that can be applied when it comes to the Russian-Belarusian relations, he noted. Moscow and Minsk are trying to work out the best option for their specific situation, which is why the process is so long and complicated, Mezhevich explained. "However, I would like to stress that if the Belarusian side had decided to abandon integration, it would have done so a long time ago," the expert added, pointing out that occasional media reports of both states uniting into one have no serious basis behind them.
He also stated that Putin and Lukashenko may have discussed another important issue during the talks: foreign policy coordination in the conditions of deteriorating relations with Europe.
On February 22, Putin and Lukashenko held a meeting in Sochi, which lasted for over six hours. The leaders held talks in the traditional tete-a-tete format, had dinner together and went skiing. During the public part of the meeting, they discussed the supply of the Russian COVID-19 vaccine to Belarus and industrial cooperation. Putin and Lukashenko stated that the instruments of cooperation between Moscow and Minsk are working well. On February 23, the leaders discussed the topics brought up in Sochi over the phone.