2019 marks the 20th anniversary of the Russia-Belarus Union State Agreement. So far the integration of the both countries has been limited to practical areas such as customs control and trade, and the governments and peoples of both countries have not shown much interest in full-fledged national integration which could be called genuine confederation. Since late 2018, however, signs of a step-forward integration have appeared, and after the Putin-Lukashenko summit in Sochi on February 15th, serious speculations on full-fledged national integration have gained ground.
In this paper, stimulating factors for the full-fledged integration of both countries and factors which work as barriers hindering the integration are analyzed. As stimulating factors, we can suggest high-level expectation of the Russian people after the annexation of Crimea, comparatively low opportunity cost, a breakthrough of current dead-lock domestic situation of Russia, territorial compensation for the hand-over of some of Kurile islands to Japan, leverage for the annexation of additional Ukrainian territory, and, as the most important factor, Putin's political step after the end of the fourth presidential term in 2024. As barriers to the full-fledged integration we can suggest additional economic burden for Russia, Belarus people's public opinion against the integration with Russia, security fear owing to the direct confrontation between NATO and Russia, and, finally, political and economic compensation for Lukashenko. In overall estimation, stimulating factors appear to be salient than barriers to integration. If a genuine confederation of Russia-Belarus is realized in the near future, security concerns of European countries, especially Poland, Baltic states and Scandinavian countries, are greatly increased and, at the same time, Eurasian geopolitics will be changed in a fundamental way.
Russia's integration with Belarus will not necessarily bring about the expansion of Russia's power and national interests, when we consider the result of the annexation of Crimea. When we speculate on the possibility of Russia-Belarus confederation, Putin's next political step is an important factor on the short-term perspective, but geopolitical change and its consequency are much more important factors, which should be taken account of for the future of Russia and Belarus.