A decrease in number of supporters of integration spotted in two previous surveys continues in October, though a little slower than in August (see Table 1). As a result, over the last two years the number of opponents of integration has exceeded the number of supporters. It mainly resulted from the fact that the number of respondents who consider unification into a single state the best variant of bilateral relations dropped (see Table 2). But we should mention here that the number of those who consider good friendly relations of two independent states an optimal variant did not go up, whereas the ranks of advocates of a union of sovereign states crept up 5%.

Table 1. Dynamics of the number of convinced proponents and opponents of integration with Russia, %

* Convinced proponents are those who at a referendum would vote for unification of Belarus and Russia into one state, and consider unification into one state the best variant of bilateral relations. Convinced opponents are those who would vote against unification, and consider neighborly relations of two independent states the best variant of bilateral relations

Table 2. Dynamics of distribution of answers to the question: “Which variant of relations between Russia and Belarus do you consider the best?”, %

Aside form that we must note that a slump in integration’s popularity is seen in answers to almost all questions related to Russia-Belarus relations. So, for example, the number of voters ready to vote for unification of Belarus and Russia at a referendum went down by 6%, and the number of those who think in the opposite jumped almost by 6% too (see Table 3). Also the number of respondents who are not disturbed by the fact that as a result of such referendum the country might lose its independence fell by 9% (see Table 4).

Table 3. Dynamics of distribution of answers to the question: “If a referendum on unification of Belarus and Russia had taken place tomorrow, how would you have voted?”, %

Table 4. Distribution of answers to the question: “Would you vote for unification of Belarus and Russia, if as a result Belarus stops existing as an independent state?”, %

A similar picture is seen in answers to the question about choosing the best future for Belarus (see Table 5). If the ranks of supporters of joining the EU remained unchanged, 4% less respondents spoke in favor of becoming part of Russia, whereas 4% more respondents support neutral status and union with Russia with Belarus retaining its sovereignty.

Table 5. Distribution of answers to the question: “Which future for Belarus do you consider the best?”, %

But why we have spotted such changes for the third consecutive survey? For the most part no extraordinary events able to provoke such an effect have taken place during these months. We could, of course, agree that recently A. Lukashenko and V. Putin have repeatedly claimed Belarus-Russia integration would be carried out with both states mandatorily remaining sovereign, and people listen to them and draw conclusions.

In fact, the topic of integration has almost disappeared from political process. Since from the side of A. Lukashenko integration has always looked like an ideological propagandistic campaign, high slogans of which could be used to bargain unilateral economic advantages from the Kremlin, and to keep its popularity up new actions are needed. And as we know, no such actions have been carried out for about two years. Russia’s new leadership sees relations with Belarus in a different light and excludes any blackmailing attempts. As a result, A. Lukashenko does not launch new campaigns because of their complete futility.

One should not overestimate his statements about sovereignty inalienability. In case he had more chances to head a newly created Russian-Belarusian state than Russia’s president, A. Lukashenko would have forgotten the Constitution and sovereignty right away. Today there are no such chances – as a hypothetical president of union state V. Putin enjoys a higher rating both in Russia and in Belarus (see Table 6).

Table 6. Distribution of answers to the question: “If there were a position of Belarus-Russia president, whom would you have voted for to hold it?” (open question)

But if chances to enter the Kremlin are very low, there is no point to make efforts. Consequently, during the past presidential campaign the topic of integration was not a leading one for A. Lukashenko. He either omitted it, or said it should be raised after the election was over. Two months have past. So far we haven’t heard any fresh statements in this respect, and A. Lukashenko hasn’t even met V. Putin.

Now Belarus’ president faces a different task – to let integration ardor drop. It is no secret that over four years – from 1995 through 1999 – a great number of integration agreements was signed. The latest agreement to create a Union State might be widely interpreted, and a draft Constitution pact, if it is put to a referendum, is likely to reduce autonomy of the Belarusian leader’s behavior. In this respect A. Lukashenko faces a problem of retaining his present powers, which means staying away from the Kremlin for reasons of self-preservation. In any case he would prefer to remain the dictator of a medium-size European state, than a president of one of 90 subjects of the Federation. Therefore, one should not be surprised if attempts to distance from Russia, or to impede integration would be made.

On his way the president must be on the watch for two dangers – dissatisfaction of large Russian capital and lost of support from his steadfast electorate, which is much more pro-Russian, than society as a whole (see Tables 7 and 8). The latter, as we have repeatedly mentioned, views integration as a chance to resurrect USSR. But if electorate could be basically ignored, because the election has just past, not everything is so easy about Russian capital. It seems that V. Putin feels no need to change the flag at the Belarusian presidential residence. Control over the most important enterprises and industries of Belarus is enough for him. Using such control Russia, most probably, is going to influence upon the process of making political decisions. Consequently, A. Lukashenko views Russia’s capital influx as a potential threat for the existing Belarusian social-economic model, since large business traditionally uses any possibilities to create maximum favorable environment for its functioning.

Table 7. Distribution of answers to the question: “If there is a referendum on adoption of a Constitution of Belarus-Russia union state, how would you vote?”, %

Table 8. Distribution of answers to the question: “If there is an election to Belarusian-Russian union parliament, would you take part in it?”, %

Speaking about Russia’s factor, one shall not forget that after September 11 the world has seen significant changes pushing Russia to the foremost ranks of the global antiterrorist coalition. Thus, today anti-Russian slogans not just irrelevant, since they are unlikely to enjoy public support, but may cause bewilderment in the West, which in the context of war against international terrorism reconsiders its approaches even towards the Chechen war. The slogan “Democratic Belarus together with Democratic Russia – in Europe” has become even more actual after the presidential election.