Belarus: bridging EU and Russia
In an interview with Washington Post, Foreign Minister Makey said that Belarus was not afraid of anyone’s military incursion, that she wanted to build friendly relations with all countries, and that she was feeling the pressure of sanctions. Amid the prolonged crisis in Russo-Ukrainian relations, Belarusian officials emphasize the indirect threat to Belarus’ independence from the Kremlin, which is connected with insufficient development of economic cooperation with Western countries because of the sanctions against the country’s leadership. The Belarusian authorities are attempting to portray Belarus as a bridge between Russia and the European Union in the Western media, thus increasing the value of the current leadership in the upcoming presidential campaign. The authorities anticipate the ‘limited recognition’ of the results of the presidential elections in 2015, but have no plans to make any concessions in terms of liberalization of the electoral campaign or ending persecution of the opponents.
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.