While Russian President Vladimir Putin promised his people in a two-hour speech that he would continue his war against Ukraine in violation of international law, the Kremlin apparently already has further plans to implement Putin's empire fantasies.
An international association of several newspapers and research portals reported that plans for a gradual takeover of neighboring Belarus were well advanced in Moscow. By 2030, the dictatorship of Moscow-allied President Alexander Lukashenko is said to have been largely absorbed by Russia. The report is based on a secret paper from the Moscow presidential administration, which the "Süddeutsche Zeitung" evaluated together with the investigative editors of WDR and NDR and nine other media.
The Swedish newspaper "Expressen", the "Kyiv Independent", the first "Delfi Estonia", "Frontstory" from Poland, the Belarusian Investigative Center and the Polish investigative platform Vsquare, Yahoo News and the London Dossier Center were involved.
The result of this collective research effort is the realization that the secret plans of the Kremlin largely coincide with the openly articulated ones. Anyone who has occasionally dealt with Putin's historical-philosophical considerations and imperial fantasies in recent years should have noticed that Vladimir Putin does not consider Belarus to be a serious state.
In the summer of 2021, Putin laid out this worldview in an essay emphasizing the “trinity of Greater Russians, Little Russians and Belarusians.” Little Russians mean the Ukrainians. The paper that the research association has now evaluated apparently describes a strategy for how this trinity is to be created.
In the case of Belarus through targeted infiltration at political, economic and military levels. The goal is a common union state under Russian leadership, according to the report, citing the document. However, some experts believe that Belarus has been a de facto union state dependent on Moscow for about 20 years. More than ever since Lukashenko was only able to put down the massive protests against his regime in autumn 2020 with Putin's help.
The internal 17-page Kremlin document entitled "Russian Federation's Strategic Objectives in Belarus" was apparently created under the impression of these protests - which the Kremlin always saw as a threat to its own regime - in the summer of 2021. According to the report lists the strategic goals of Russia in Belarus in the areas of politics/defence, trade and economy as well as society and divides them into short-term (until 2022), medium-term (until 2025) and long-term (2030).
Accordingly, Moscow's strategic goal is, among other things, "to ensure the dominant influence of the Russian Federation in the areas of social policy, trade, economy, science, education and culture". The constitutional reform passed in Belarus last February should be completed according to Russian conditions, and laws should be "harmonized" with those of the Russian Federation.
At the same time, the Kremlin wants to push back Western influence and create a bulwark against NATO. The Kremlin is obviously not interested in the fact that in Belarus, as in Ukraine, a large majority of the population does not want to belong to Russia, but is oriented towards the West. The Belarusian opposition writer Sasha Filipenko, for example, suspects that in Belarus only “a fifth of the population” still wants to unite with Russia, depending on which poll you believe.
Experts to whom the "Süddeutsche Zeitung" presented the paper consider it to be authentic. "In its external form, the document resembles a standard document of the Russian bureaucracy or political administration," said Martin Kragh, deputy director of the Stockholm Center for Eastern European Studies (SCEEUS). The content is "largely consistent with Russia's political goals towards Belarus since the 1990s".
According to the "Süddeutsche Zeitung", several western news services also consider the paper to be credible. "The content of the document is absolutely plausible and corresponds to what we also perceive," said a senior intelligence official. The strategy paper should be seen as part of a larger plan by Putin: the creation of a new Greater Russian Empire.
"If Putin's plans work out both in Belarus and in Ukraine," said Hungary-based Belarusian security expert Anton Bendarjevskiy, "that would also send a clear signal to other former Soviet republics." The Belarus plan is a blueprint, warns Franak Viacorka, chief adviser to exiled Belarusian opposition politician Svetlana Tichanovskaya, that it could also be applied "to Kazakhstan, Armenia, Moldova."