Union State

For the bank, see Union State Bank.
Union State
  • Союзное государство (Russian)
  • Саюзная дзяржава (Belarusian)
HeadquartersStaraya Square, Moscow[1]
Largest city Moscow
55°45′N 37°37′E / 55.750°N 37.617°E / 55.750; 37.617
Official languages
Type Politico-economic union
Member states Belarus and Russia
   Chairman of the Supreme State Council Belarus A. Lukashenko
   Chairman of the Council of Ministers Russia D. Medvedev
   State Secretary Russia Pavel Borodin
Legislature Supreme State Council
   Total 17,332,837 km2a
6,692,246 sq mi
   2016 estimate 156 milliona
   Density 9.0/km2
23.3/sq mi
Time zone (UTC+2 to +12)
Date format dd.mm.yyyy
Drives on the right
a. ^ Including Crimea and the Kuril Islands, both disputed territories of Russia.

The Union State (Russian: Союзное государство; Belarusian: Саюзная дзяржава), also referred to as the Union State of Russia and Belarus (Russian: Союзное государство России и Беларуси; Belarusian: Саюзная дзяржава Расіі і Беларусі), is a politico-economic union consisting of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus.


Stamps of Russia about the Treaty between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus on establishing the Union (2 April 1996)

The Commonwealth of Belarus and Russia originated on 2 April 1996.[2] The basis of the union was strengthened on 2 April 1997, with the signing of the "Treaty on the Union between Belarus and Russia" at which time its name was changed to the Union of Belarus and Russia.[3] Several further agreements were signed on 25 December 1998, with the intention of providing greater political, economic, and social integration.[3]

Nevertheless, the nature of this original political entity remained vague. Under pressure from his own political opponents, who argued for a reunion of the two states, and from Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who sought to tie his excessively weak economy to Russia's stronger one, then Russian President Boris Yeltsin initiated the creation of the current Union in order to harmonize the political and economic differences between the two nations.[4] Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev had put forward a similar proposal in 1994, envisioning the founding of a Eurasian union, but this proposal was not adopted until 29 May 2014 with the formation of the Eurasian Economic Union.[5] The Treaty on the Creation of a Union State of Russia and Belarus was signed on 8 December 1999.[6] The intention was to eventually achieve a federation like the Soviet Union, with a common president, parliament, flag, coat of arms, anthem, constitution, army, citizenship, currency, etc. The current Union was ratified by the Russian State Duma on 22 December 1999 and the National Assembly of Belarus on 26 January 2000. On the latter date the Treaty and the Union officially came into effect.[7]

The Treaty on the Creation of a Union State has established the following institutions:[8]

Each member state retains its own sovereignty and international personality, meaning that Russia and Belarus are still fully responsible for their own internal affairs and external relations. The Union State cannot itself claim representation in other international organizations or overrule legislation or government decisions of its member states, except in cases specified by the Union Treaty. As such, the Union State most resembles a supranational confederation on the order of the African Union, or the Union of South American Nations.

Pavel Borodin is the current State Secretary of the Union. He was first appointed by the Supreme State Council on January 26, 2000 for a four-year term. In 2004 and 2008 his term was renewed for an additional four years.


Shortly after its inauguration, both member states seemed to have lost their initial enthusiasm for the Union, with first Russia, and then Belarus, restoring customs controls along their common border in 2001, effectively suspending the customs union until it was restored in 2010. Plans had also been set in motion to implement a common currency across the Union, but these have been postponed several times.

Additionally, Belarus and Russia have thus far failed to institute any symbols or even a flag for the Union State.[9][10] Nevertheless, a song called "Sovereign Union of Nations" (Russian: Державный союз народов Derzhavny soyuz narodov, Belarusian: Дзяржаўны саюз народаў Dzyarzhauny sayuz narodau) has been proposed as the Union's unofficial anthem. The song, which was modified from the National Anthem of the Soviet Union, refers to a wider union of the two nations.[11]

On November 16, 2010 it was announced by the Union State website that the Constitutional Act was 99% ready.[12]

Common currency

Initially, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko promised to introduce a common currency on January 1, 2004. The currency was not introduced, and the plan was pushed back by one year. On January 1, 2005, the Union State again failed to introduce a common currency, and it was again postponed by one year, which, in 2006, happened once again. During a press-conference in Minsk on February 2, 2006, Pyotr Prokopovich, chief of the National Bank of Belarus, announced that a "common currency might be introduced in 2007." This, however, failed to occur in 2007. The National Bank of the Republic of Belarus announced that, starting in 2008, the Belarusian ruble would be tied to the United States dollar instead of the Russian ruble.[13]

Citizenship and freedom of migration

Despite lacking elaborate legal fundamentals indispensable for a union of such a degree of integration, and constant frictions on a number of trade and political issues, the Union State does - in a way - provide a common citizenship. While citizens of Russia and Belarus retain their national passports and other identification papers, they have the right to work and permanently settle in either country, without formal immigration procedures otherwise mandatory for foreign nationals.


As of February 10, 2009, Russia and Belarus have implemented the first stage of joint military officer training programs designed to integrate the military structures of both countries. This military collective is called the Regional Forces Group of Belarus and Russia or RGF. The goal of these operations is to ensure cohesive training, practice and implementation of military interests for both nations and are aimed at both strategic and battle training taking place in February and March 2009.[14] Furthermore, the current military doctrine of the Russian Federation provides that "an armed attack on the state-participant in the Union State, as well as all other actions involving the use of military force against it," should be considered "as an act of aggression against the Union State," authorizing Moscow to "take measures in response".[15]

Flag and coat of arms

One of the flag proposals.

Since the formation of the Union of Russia and Belarus in 1997, there has not been official recognition of a state flag or coat of arms. There have been several drafts for flags and coats of arms.

Two proposals have been made for the flag of the Union. In all cases, they are modifications to the flag of the Soviet Union, but representing the state (not communism). In both cases, two gold stars are placed in the canton of the red flag (to represent the two states of the Union).[10]

A proposed coat of arms is a modification of the double-headed eagle holding the coats of arms of Russia and Belarus.[16]

Value Added Tax controversy

Belarus and Russia had been collecting a Value added tax (VAT), meant to finance the Union State, in the country of origin, but from 1 January 2005, VAT is collected in the country of destination, as in most other independent countries of the world. This change gave rise to a considerable degree of confusion and has disrupted many trade operations between Belarus and Russia. On 10 February 2005, private entrepreneurs in Belarus staged a one-day warning strike, protesting the new VAT scheme between the two countries and Lukashenko's economic policies.

Contemplated expansion

The Union State (yellow), along with states that have expressed interest in joining the Union (green) and other members of the CIS (pink).

Renewed interest

GUAM Organization for Democracy and Economic Development Georgia (country) Azerbaijan Ukraine Moldova Tajikistan Turkmenistan Collective Security Treaty Organization Eurasian Economic Union Uzbekistan Kyrgyzstan Kazakhstan Armenia Union State Belarus Russia Commonwealth of Independent States Commonwealth of Independent States Free Trade Area Baltic Assembly Lithuania Latvia Estonia Community for Democracy and Rights of Nations Transnistria Abkhazia South Ossetia Nagorno-Karabakh Republic
Euler diagram showing the relationships between various multinational organisations in the territory of the former Soviet Unionvde

On 15 December 2006, talks over the Union State were heating up.[27] By January 2007, however, talks appeared to be stalled, as President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus stated: "The Russian leadership is demanding that we join the Russian Federation — that's what is in the heads of the Russian leadership. I don't want to bury the sovereignty and independence of [Belarus]." He added: "From all the consultations and discussions, I have understood that we have different approaches and understandings of the building of a union state", and opposed "the possibility of the incorporation into Russia [of Belarus]".[28]

However, on 19 October 2007, Russian Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov announced that the budget of the Union State "will grow by no less than ten percent next year, and that growth will provide for worthy funding of our common projects." [29] This has led to speculation that the Russian government have renewed their interest in the idea.

A meeting between President Lukashenko of Belarus, President Vladimir Putin of Russia and Union State Secretary Pavel Borodin was held in Minsk 13–14 December 2007. This meeting received a considerable amount of media attention and raised speculation that a Union State might indeed be the focus of a new initiative by both governments. Of primary interest was renewed discussion of the Union Parliament (which, although planned, was never actually realized) and a Union State Constitutional Act, an instrument which could potentially strengthen the authority of the Union. According to State Secretary Borodin, five variants of this Act were discussed at the meeting, each of which would involve a 7 to 10 year transitional period in the Union's development. Trade and energy issues were also discussed.[30]

On 27 May 2008, President Lukashenko, acting in his current capacity as Chairman of the Supreme State Council named then Russian Prime Minister and current President Putin Chairman of the Council of Ministers.[31] This move raised speculation that the Union was about to undergo a significant political transformation. However, the most visible and arguably important official in the Union has been the State Secretary, who runs the Union State's day-to-day operations. In the same meeting, State Secretary Borodin announced that the 2009 Union State budget would total 6–7 billion Russian rubles, an increase of over 2 billion rubles from 2008.

On 1 August 2011, Putin stated he supported a union of Russia, Belarus, and possibly even South Ossetia.[32] Belarusian Foreign Minister spokesman Andrei Savinykh rejected the idea,[33] as did Dmitri Medojev, South Ossetia's ambassador to Moscow, who stated "Our people voted for independence in a referendum in 2006 and they do not relish the idea of becoming part of the Russian Federation."[33]

Since 2015, focus on developing relations between former members of the Soviet Union is on continued development of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), itself a further development of the Eurasian Customs Union established in 2010. It is modeled on the integration of the European Union and comprises 5 member states: Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan. Tajikistan has also expressed an interest in joining. However, the EAEU is only an economic union, and at present, political integration remains within the remit of the Union State.

See also


  1. Permanent Committee of the Union State
  2. Zulys, Audrius. "Toward a Union State of Russia and Belarus". Lithuanian Foreign Policy Review, 2005, p. 149
  3. 1 2 Zulys, Audrius. "Toward a Union State of Russia and Belarus", p. 150
  4. Donaldson, Robert H. "Boris Yeltsin's Foreign Policy Legacy"
  5. Asadova, Nargiz. "An interview with Prime Minister of Kazakhstan Karim Masimov". Originally printed in Kommersant, 4 June 2007, p. 2. Translated by Ferghana.Ru "Archived copy". Archived from the original on June 5, 2008. Retrieved May 28, 2008.
  6. BBC News, "Russia and Belarus form confederation"
  7. Zulys, Audrius. "Toward a Union State of Russia and Belarus", p. 151
  8. Zulys, Audrius. "Toward a Union State of Russia and Belarus", p. 151-2
  9. National symbol
  10. 1 2 http://www.vexillographia.ru/belarus/union.htm
  11. ДЕРЖАВНЫЙ СОЮЗ НАРОДОВ (in Russian). 2003. Retrieved 2008-02-22.
  12. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on July 6, 2011. Retrieved November 22, 2010.
  13. "Belarus to link currency to dollar". Associated Press. 2007-08-15. Archived from the original on April 22, 2008. Retrieved 2007-10-01.
  14. "Link to joint military training". Union State Website. February 11, 2009. Retrieved February 21, 2009.
  15. "Union State of Russia and Belarus: a military union?". Window on Heartland. January 14, 2012.
  16. Проект герба Союза России и Белоруссии (2002 г.). Geraldika.ru (in Russian). Retrieved 2008-10-27.
  17. Belarus could recognize Abkhazia, S. Ossetia next year
  18. Abkhaz wish to join Union on YouTube
  19. 1 2 Customs Union of Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan to be up and running by 2010 "Archived copy". Archived from the original on March 15, 2012. Retrieved July 31, 2007.
  20. Opposition in Kyrgyzstan wants to join Russia-Belarus union
  21. Moldova ready for Russia Belarus union
  22. Communists of Moldova and the future of the country's ethno-political conflicts "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on August 19, 2007. Retrieved July 31, 2007.
  23. President makes statement regarding debates over idea of so-called union of Ukraine, Russia and Belarus Archived March 20, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. April 1, 2010
  24. Опыты независимой аналитики КУДА ИДЕМ МЫ С ЯНУКОВИЧЕМ? Archived March 15, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. Центр проблемного анализа и государственно-управленческого проектирования, April 9, 2010
  25. Serbian Parliament Speaker Calls For Closer Russia Ties
  26. "That same year, the Tiraspol Supreme Soviet chairman declared that the Transnistrian republic will demand that Moldova accepts full integration into the CIS and that it joins the Russian Federation-Belarus union, viewed as a possible future model for the MTR's status vis-a-vis the Republic of Moldova. A non-binding referendum on joining the Russia-Belarus union was held between April and June 1998, with over 66 percent of the ballots supporting the union. However, like the province of Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea (isolated from Russia by independent Lithuania and Poland), the east-bank separatist region, has no common borders with either Belarus or the Russian Federation." Moldova.org Official website of the Trades Ministry of the Republic of Moldova Archived December 20, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  27. "Unified state of Russia and Belarus discussed in Kremlin" Archived September 28, 2007, at the Wayback Machine., an Russia Today, December 15, 2006
  28. "Belarus local elections end" Archived January 17, 2007, at the Wayback Machine., al Jazeera, January 14, 2007
  29. Itar-Tass Archived January 14, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  30. President meets with State Secretary of the Belarus–Russia Union State Archived June 12, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  31. Belarusian Telegraphy Agency, "Union State budget 2009 to total RUR6–7 billion, Pavel Borodin says"
  32. "Russian PM Says Unification With Belarus Possible and Desirable". Voice of America. 2011-08-01. Retrieved 2011-08-28.
  33. 1 2 "Belarus rejects Putin's call for unification with Russia". Deutsche Welle. 2011-08-04. Retrieved 2011-08-28.
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