Eastern border: the reasons for changing the legal status of border areas.


On September 4, 2014 Alexander Lukashenko signed the Decree № 433 “On Amendments to the Decree of the President of the Republic of Belarus of March 9, 2009 № 125”, which establishes the border area within the administrative-territorial units, adjacent to the state border of the Republic of Belarus and the Russian Federation. The note of the press service of Belarusian leader reads that “… it will create conditions for implementation of the tasks and functions assigned to the Border Service within this area, as well as organize a proper interaction with the border authorities of the Russian Federation, aimed at solving problems to detect and prevent the transit illegal migration, drug trafficking and illegal cross-border movement of material values and goods”.

The State Border Committee immediately began to argue that the introduction of the border area has no legal and institutional implications. The new decree was adopted in order to improve the legal environment for the border guards on the border with the Russian territories. But the border agency “forgot” to report that there are no Belarusian border guards there (on the border with the Russian Federation). So, they are expected to appear there in the future.

It’s also necessary to focus on the legal status of border areas. Art. 1 of the Law “On the State Border of the Republic of Belarus” gives the following definition of the border area, “Land area, including the border zone, the border strip, strip mounting State border checkpoints … dedicated to the protection of the State border”. In turn, the border zone — the area of land adjacent to the state border for performing the protection of the State border; borderland — the area of land adjacent to the state border, designed to establish and maintain in good repair facilities and equipment necessary to implement the protection of the state border; checkpoint — a territory, other specially equipped place where border and customs control is carried out, and sanitary-quarantine, veterinary, phytosanitary, automobile and other types of controls on crossing the state border of individuals, vehicles, and transported across the state border of the goods can be carried out as well.

Thus, the issue is the beginning of the creation (or the demonstration of the intention to create) full-fledged infrastructure of Border Protection on the Belarusian-Russian border.

It seems that while taking that decision Belarusian authorities took in mind four reasons. Firstly, as stated above, there is a need to significantly strengthen the fight against cross-border crime, smuggling, illegal migration and drug trafficking. Currently, synthetic drugs are mainly supplied to Belarus via Russia (not to mention the Afghan heroin). Form Russia Belarus also receives bulk of illegal immigrants from Afro-Asian region. Transparency of the border facilitates the activities of criminal groups of one country in the territory of a neighboring one (remember the wave of thefts of premium class vehicles in Belarus, which then were transferred to the North Caucasus region of Russia). Secondly, the establishment of full control on the eastern border is connected with the unpredictability of the Kremlin’s policy, which have demonstrated a willingness to invade even in a friendly state. It is impossible to ignore the experience of Ukrainian Donbass, where the first wave of a physical invasion was started by so-called “Putin’s tourists” — citizens of Russia, under the guise of locals (and with some help from them as well) capturing the government bodies.

Thirdly, the special services of the CIS countries consider the aggravation of the situation in the Central Asian countries of the Commonwealth as a result of the destabilization of Afghanistan and the activity of new transnational terrorist groups such as “Islamic state” to be a likely scenario. Fourthly, Belarus may soon see an analog of the “Islamic state” close to its borders. We are talking about the temporarily occupied parts of Donetsk and Lugansk regions of Ukraine. These areas represent a “gray zone”, part of which is controlled by criminals, and another one — by ideologically motivated terrorist groups (for example, representatives of the so-called “red orthodox Project”). The parallels with the “Islamic state” can not be ignored: the taking of hostages for ransom; torture and public executions; expulsion for subsequent seizure of the property of entire groups of the local population on the basis of their ethnicity, religion or native language.

International organizations do nothing. The West provides limited support to Ukraine, obviously waiting for the Kremlin’s finally getting bogged down in a war with Kiev. “Lugansk People’s Republic” and “Donetsk People’s Republic” are very likely to become future suppliers of drugs, weapons, mercenaries and terrorists in the region as well as a haven for criminals from all over the former Soviet Union. It’s also necessary to note that in the war in the south-east of Ukraine the mass participation of mercenaries from other “gray areas” — Abkhazia and South Ossetia was noted. Where they will go to the next time together with the militants from “Lugansk People’s Republic” and “Donetsk People’s Republic” is the question, that worries many people.  

Thus, the decision of the Belarusian authorities on introduction of the border area along the border with Russia is stimulated and is dictated by a complex of reasons. And the question is not “if the border area is established?”, but “when the border area will be established?”. This will require an increase of financial and human resources of the State Border Committee, including the purpose of strengthening the protection of the border with Ukraine. However, in the light of the destruction of a regional security system, there are not other alternatives.