President Putin has embarked on a program of restoring Russia to world-power status. A key facet of his effort has been to establish a sphere of influence in the 'Near Abroad,' the countries of the former Soviet Union. While the world has focused on the dramatic events in Ukraine since 2013, much less attention has been paid to the vital role of Belarus in Putin's plans. Belarus has long had closer relations with Russia than any other former Soviet state, dating back to the Yeltsin years. This paper will show that Russia has devoted considerable resources to Belarus, showering the country with a variety of economic inducements, including access to the Russian market, subsidized oil and gas, and outright grants and loans. In return, Belarus has tightened its political, economic, and military ties to Moscow. Yet, surprisingly, Belarus also has some bargaining power in this relationship. Its quixotic leader, Alexander Lukashenko, is well aware of his importance to the Kremlin, and uses it to gain even greater economic rewards - thus cementing his own power. This case thus can make an valuable contribution to extending the literature on patron-client relations in International Relations, showing that a client can stand up to its patron in certain circumstances.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cultural Studies
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
- Sociology and Political Science
- Linguistics and Language
- Political Science and International Relations