Belarus is trying to improve product sales bypassing Moscow
Some tension in bilateral relations with Russia have urged the Belarusian government to develop relations with Russian regions. Since early 2015, leaders and delegations from four Russian regions – Ingushetia, Udmurtia, Chuvashia and the Chelyabinsk region visited Minsk. Each time, inter alia, state supplies of Belarusian products to these regions have been discussed. Direct contacts with the Russian regions could boost overall Belarusian exports to Russia, however such cooperation should not be too efficient in the eyes of the Kremlin, otherwise the latter will hamper rapprochement between Belarus and Russian governors.
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.