(Angus Reid Global Monitor) - More adults in Russia believe a merger with another former Soviet republic is now unnecessary, according to a poll by the All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center. 39 per cent of respondents believe Belarus should be treated as just another state, up 14 points since April 2002.
Conversely, 29 per cent of respondents support creating an association of two equal states, while 23 per cent would welcome Belarus as a component of the Russian Federation.
In late 1999, Russian president Vladimir Putin and Belarusian president Aleksandr Lukashenko signed a bilateral treaty, where the two nations agreed to eventually merge their tax systems and currencies.
In late 2006, Russia announced it would double the price it charges Belarus for natural gas. When the Lukashenko administration imposed a "transit fee" on Russian crude bound for Europe, Russia opted to suspend all oil supplies to Belarus.
In a Feb. 6 interview, Lukashenko criticized Russia's government, saying, "Russian policy is more and more like U.S. policy, which they never cease to criticize. There is some imperial style in their behaviour. Russia tries to ignore the former Soviet countries based on the false assumption that they will not go away, they will remain firmly attached but that is a false assumption."
On Feb. 8, State Duma speaker Boris Gryzlov acknowledged problems in bilateral relations, saying, "We must keep the possibility of creating the union. Nowadays, it's under threat."
How should the Russia-Belarus union be enacted?
As an association of two equal states
Belarus becomes a component of the Russian Federation
Association is not necessary; Belarus hould be treated as just another state
Hard to answer
Source: All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center
Methodology: Interviews with 1,600 Russian adults, conducted on Jan. 20 and Jan. 21, 2007. Margin of error is 3.4 per cent.