Accident at Belarusian NPP has ruined Belarus’ image of reliable partner in Europe
The Belarusian authorities are liable for an attempt to cover up an incident at the Belarusian Nuclear Power Plant under construction. There are no grounds to doubt that they are fully in control of the NPP construction. The incident has revealed the usual approach of the Belarusian bureaucracy, when the authorities are attempting to avoid responsibility and shift it onto somebody else.
Only following pressure from the independent media and two weeks after an incident, the Belarusian authorities have confirmed an emergency at the reactor storage area at the NPP construction site. The Belarusian Energy Ministry said that Russian JSC Atommash informed the Ministry about the incident. Apparently, the Ministry attempted to avoid responsibility for the emergency and its consequences, by pretending not to know about the state of affairs at the construction site. That said, the NPP construction is a strategic project and a costly one.
In order to prevent abuses during the NPP construction, the project is under close supervision (direct and indirect) by the Belarusian special services, the law-enforcement and other Belarusian controlling bodies. The Belarusian authorities may be unable to assess the technological implications of the incident promptly due to the lack of special knowledge, but the mere fact of the fall of the reactor’s body could not go unnoticed.
Belarusian officials’ behaviour in the incident with the NPP reactor has disavowed Minsk’s attempts to create an image of a reliable and responsible partner on regional security issues. In order to recover reputational damage, the Belarusian authorities are likely to invite international organisations and specialists from other countries, except Lithuania, to investigate the incident. The Belarusian authorities regard Lithuania’s stance in this regard as non-constructive, aimed at blocking the Belarusian NPP construction by any means.
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.