Union of Russia and Belarus
- Originally known as the Commonwealth of Russia and Belarus, the special relationship between the Russian Federation and Belarus dates to 2 April 1996 when Minsk and Moscow expanded on the existing linkage provided by their joint membership in the Commonwealth of Independent States. A bicameral parliament, with equal representation from both states, was subsequently convened. The relationship was further expanded under Boris Yeltsin and Aleksandr Lukashenko in 1997 through the Treaty on the Union between Belarus and Russia, which gave rise to the current name of the union. Disputes over common economic and energy policies stymied meaningful integration in the ensuing years, and enthusiasm for the project waned. Customs controls were resumed in 2001, effectively terminating one of the most important benefits of the original relationship. Despite a resurgence of interest in 2006, the countries’ failure to introduce a common currency and Minsk’s decision to fix its ruble to the U.S. dollar in 2008 demonstrated the weakness of a common front on financial matters. However, the tenets of the union still govern bilateral relations between the two neighbors. On several occasions, other states have expressed interest in joining the so-called Union State, including Serbia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, and the breakaway republics of Transnistria, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia.
Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. Robert A. Saunders and Vlad Strukov. 2010.
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