In the late 1990s Lukashenka was very popular on the Russian political scene. With aging president Yeltsin who had serious health problems and a large number of communists and nationalists in the Russian parliament, Lukashenka’s plans did not seem unreasonable. 

On several occasions, Lukashenka mentioned that Belarus was just the first step on his career ladder, and he traveled extensively throughout the Russian regions to meet with the people and the local elite. He also invited large groups of Russian regional journalists to Belarus where they were taken to the best factories and farms to demonstrate the advantages of the Belarusian economic and political model. Some journalists are still invited on such trips, which are generously paid for by the Belarusians.

However, with the advent of Vladimir Putin, the Russian security forces consolidated their control in Moscow, and it is all the while becoming more and more inconceivable that the powerful Russian oligarchs would favour the Belarusian economic and political model.