Minsk loses interest in developing contacts with distant countries
Amid improvements in Belarusian-European relations, Minsk has reduced the intensity of contacts with Asian and Latin American states and focused on domestic agenda. The Belarusian Foreign Ministry’s strategy aiming to develop relations with the ‘far arc’ countries has lost its relevance in the context of intense liaisons with Western capitals and a lull in relations with the Kremlin. In addition, relations with China require a revision of the ‘long arc’ concept to identify a special place for Sino-Belarusian relations.
At a meeting with the head of the executive power of Afghanistan Abdullah Abdullah President Lukashenka said that Belarus and Afghanistan should move from talks to building concrete cooperation.
The Belarusian leadership has managed to break through its international isolation, including through holding the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in Minsk, which has reduced the need to demonstrate foreign policy successes to the population by establishing relations with the leaders of the ‘far arc’ states. In addition, Minsk is attempting to take maximum advantage of the CEI chairmanship, which prompts to focus foreign policy efforts on the West and reduce contacts with the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Some economic recovery in H1 2017 has allowed President Lukashenka to relax efforts in searching for economic partners in the ‘far arc’ states. Unlike in previous years, the president has focused on the domestic political agenda and the participation in propaganda activities inside the country, rather than making foreign trips and meeting with the leaders of the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Latin America.
The Belarusian Foreign Ministry is likely to revise the ‘far arc’ concept and enhance China's role in Belarus' foreign policy. Minsk is likely to balance out human rights claims from Western capitals and political and economic pressure from the Kremlin by developing relations with Beijing, rather than other ‘far arc’ states.
During searches of social and "green" activists and anarchists, law enforcement has seized computers, mobile phones and publications. The authorities have also exerted additional pressure on supporters of unauthorized street protests and independent lawyers, who represented defendants in the White Legion case. The security services have stepped up the persecution of opponents before the street protests announced by the opposition. Apparently, the Belarusian authorities aspire that participants in street protests would reduce in number and that the low interest of the population to socio-political agenda before the local election campaign would retain.