MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia stated on Thursday that Belarus’s refusal to host a army air base backed by President Vladimir Putin had been an “disagreeable episode”, a uncommon public show of disagreement between the shut allies.
Russia and Belarus are members of a largely symbolic union state and are in talks to deepen their integration, however the air base spat illustrates the constraints of their alliance as Moscow’s ties with the West have plunged to post-Chilly Battle lows.
Russia props up the Belarusian economic system with low-cost vitality and loans, however Minsk is cautious of permitting Russia an excessive amount of affect, fearing that might finally pose a risk to its sovereignty.
The Kremlin mounted a bid to arrange the air base in Belarus in 2015 and hoped it will host Su-27 fighter jets, however the former Soviet republic, which serves as a buffer between Russia and NATO’s east European states, snubbed Moscow.
The plans to arrange the bottom got here as Moscow’s ties with the West have been quickly fraying over Russia’s annexation of Crimea, tit-for-tat sanctions and the conflict in Syria.
However Belarus stated final yr that it noticed no want for a Russian air base, that such a deployment risked exacerbating regional tensions and that the conditions in Ukraine and Syria have been extra deserving of consideration.
“This actually (was) an disagreeable episode,” Russian Overseas Minister Sergei Lavrov stated when requested concerning the snub in an interview with the Kommersant each day newspaper on Thursday.
“However content material, not type is most necessary. And by way of content material, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has stated many occasions that … Russia is a 100% ally,” Lavrov stated.
Belarus and Russia are at the moment holding talks to broaden their integration, a course of that has fueled concern a couple of quiet annexation by Moscow.
Then-U.S. nationwide safety adviser John Bolton final month turned essentially the most senior U.S. official to journey to Belarus in years, a visit he stated he wished to make use of to warn Lukashenko of the safety risk posed to Belarus by Russia.
Lukashenko has been at odds with the West over Belarus’s human rights document for years, however is understood for taking part in Russia and the West off in opposition to one another to be able to extract concessions.
Reporting by Tom Balmforth; Modifying by Giles Elgood