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Amid Ukraine crisis, Minsk hopes to enhance pragmatic cooperation with Washington

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April 22, 2016 19:01

Alexander Kasanof, director of the Office for Eastern Europe at the U.S. Department of State and Oleg Kravchenko, head of the American Directorate, discussed bilateral relations in Minsk.

Amid the crisis in Ukraine and the growing tensions between the Kremlin and the West, official Minsk is attempting to shape the agenda for negotiations with the US. It seeks to reduce the political conditions factor by talking about the need to strengthen the sovereignty and independence of post-Soviet countries, including Belarus. Official Minsk is committed to continuing the bilateral dialogue and enhancing pragmatic cooperation with Washington in humanitarian and economic activity, and to opening opportunities for financial assistance from international financial institutions. However, the Belarusian authorities have no plans to liberalise the political regime, meaning that the release of political prisoners, among other things, is off its agenda.

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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.

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