Minsk steps up financial dependence on Moscow
Belarus received the second tranche from the Russian-controlled Eurasian Fund for Stabilisation and Development worth USD 300 million. Amid mutual statements about the resolution of the energy conflict between Minsk and Moscow in the near future, the EFSD management has taken a final decision to allocate the loan. According to Russia, Belarus’ overdue debt for gas is USD 270 million, which almost equals the size of the EFSR loan’s second tranche. Media reported, that during the talks on oil and gas prices for Belarus, Russia linked potential discounts in H2 2016, inter alia, to privatisation of Belarusian property, which was also the EFSD requirement. Due to the oil and gas standout, Minsk practically received funds from the EFSD without a delay. However, from the strategic perspective, the Belarusian authorities have increased Belarus’ financial dependence on the Kremlin as further loan tranches could be conditioned with the sale of state-owned enterprises.
The Belarusian authorities regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.
Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.
Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.
In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.