State Reassured by Details of Merger

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: Russia and Belarus signed a treaty formally bringing the two countries into a closer cooperation reminiscent of Soviet times. Details of the arrangement released Wednesday eased the fears of State Department officials who had been concerned that a close link would mean that Russia's ailing economy would be dangerously burdened with an even poorer-performing Belarus, possibly destabilizing both. But the union hardly seems to be a marriage, notes TIME's Doug Waller. "Based on comments Boris Yeltsin made at the signing ceremony, officials noted that the new treaty will not form a single state. Each nation's sovereignty will be preserved. There will be no common budget, a common currency is a long way off, and, in essence, there will be no financial cost to Russia from the union. And the document is subject to revision until May 15.