Belarus is unlikely to send its peacekeepers to Syria
Belarus is interested in building up its political importance through more active participation in resolving crisis situations in the world, including through armed peacekeeping. That said, Minsk could have major problems if it joined Russia-led peacekeeping missions. Hence, a large-scale participation of the Belarusian military in a peacekeeping operation under the aegis of Moscow is unlikely.
Some Russian officials have once again raised the issue of a possibility for the CIS states to join a quasi-peacekeeping operation in Syria under the auspices of Russia, Turkey and Iran. As before, such a proposal has caused a negative reaction in the post-Soviet space. Meanwhile, so far, an official request from Russia has not followed.
The Belarusian authorities believe, participation in peacekeeping activities is an important mechanism for increasing Belarus’ prestige and recognition on the international arena, which could be the case if she participated in operations with the mandate of the international community (eg within the UN framework or other influential regional organizations). That said, the idea of the armed participation in any operation outside Belarus is extremely unpopular in Belarusian society.
Hence, Belarus is ready to deploy only a very limited peacekeeping force. Speaking about the Syrian case, it is worth recalling that Saudi Arabia (as well as Egypt, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates) have a diametrically different stance than Russia. Turkish policy in Syria is also far from being pro-Moscow. Meanwhile, Minsk regards these states as traditional or potential major/strategic partners in the Middle East. In addition, the Belarusian authorities are interested in normalising relations with the United States. Hence, Belarus is very unlikely to join an action capable of undermining the prospects for Belarusian-American relations.
Any participation of the Belarusian military in a peacekeeping operation under the Russian aegis seems unlikely. Should Russia directly appeal to Belarus, taking into account the special nature of the Russo-Belarusian relations, the latter would have a serious problem with refusing openly. The Belarusian authorities would either try to evade the participation in the peacekeeping mission by delaying domestic procedures, or would send a symbolic contingent, for example, several officers for staff work or military doctors.
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.