Since gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Belarus has been one of Moscow’s closest allies. The country is a critical part of the buffer between Russia and the rest of Europe. With Russia to its east, EU and NATO members to its west, Ukraine and the Black Sea to its south and the Baltic states to its north, it’s in a strategically valuable position. Moscow needs to keep Belarus squarely within its sphere of influence, and Minsk has for the most part obliged.
But when the conflict in Ukraine broke out, things changed. Wary of Russia’s intentions, Belarus started warming up to other potential partners, increasing economic cooperation with China, trying to gain greater access to EU markets, and intensifying military cooperation with the United Kingdom.
Still, the two countries have a long history of partnership and cooperation, including as members of an organization called the Union State. Formed in the 1990s, the Union State originally envisioned a