Belarus staves off ‘privatisation’ pressure from the Kremlin
Moscow hosted another round of negotiations between Belarus’ First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Semashko, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich and Dmitry Rogozin, to discuss joint integration projects and the implementation of mutually beneficial arrangements for the supply of oil and petroleum products.
The Kremlin has placed conditions for providing oil preferences to Belarus, such as the privatisation of Belarus’ state assets by Russian companies within the Eurasian integration. Moscow is also toying with the option of receiving compensation for losses from reduced Russo-Ukrainian cooperation in the military-industrial sphere by involving the Belarusian defence industry in joint projects. This also interests Minsk. In turn, Belarus is interested in swiftly introducing competitive conditions for economic entities (as of January 1st, 2015 Russian companies can use budgetary subsidies to purchase Belarusian equipment). In Minsk’s viewpoint, this will enable domestic producers to unload their stock. Meanwhile, with the Kremlin busy with dealing with the ‘Ukrainian’ issue, Minsk is successfully delaying the privatisation process.
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.