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The Daily Vertical: Best Frenemies Forever (Transcript)

  • Brian Whitmore

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL.

They're arguing about milk. They're quarreling about customs. And they're squabbling about ports.

For two countries that are supposed to be close allies, who are part of a "union state," and who are about to hold massive joint military exercises, Russia and Belarus sure do seem to be bickering a lot.

As Russian troops arrived in Belarus for next month's Zapad-2017 war games, Russia banned some Belarusian dairy products.

Vladimir Putin also publicly pressured Belarus to export its refined petroleum products via Russian ports, rather than those in the Baltic states, as Minsk prefers.

And Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka used a recent interview on the Kremlin-controlled Rossia-24 state television channel to lash out at Moscow over the behavior of Russian customs officials and border guards.

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Meanwhile, rather than showcasing unity between Moscow and Minsk, the upcoming Zapad-2017 war games seem to be highlighting their differences.

Belarus appears to be bending over backwards to make the exercises as transparent as possible and to reassure Minsk's Western neighbors that they won't be used as a platform for mischief.

Russia appears intent on using the war games as a psyop.

The ongoing discord between Minsk and Moscow is a stark barometer of the widening gap between Russia and its neighbors.

Because, let's face it, Belarus ain't Ukraine and it ain't Georgia.

It's a Russian client and it's pretty safe to say that it won't be seeking NATO or EU membership anytime soon.

In fact, it's often said that Russia wants to turn Ukraine and Georgia into Belarus.

Well, Belarus already is Belarus. And the fact that its relations with Moscow are so persistently rocky speaks volumes.

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