Belarus will proceed with policy of balancing
Belarus hopes to reduce regional security threats with a new negotiation process, since the policy of balancing between the warring parties is close to exhaustion, as the West-2017 military exercises have demonstrated.
The West-2017 exercises have been held without significant excesses in terms of regional security, and confirmed that Belarus, even in alliance with Russia, was not a regional threat. The Belarusian authorities controlled the number of troops and weapons, the order and location of the exercises in Belarus and the compliance with the approved and promulgated scenario. Conventionally, Belarus has failed in providing adequate information coverage for the exercises.
However, these shortcomings had little impact on the overall outcome of the exercises for the region: Russia held an intimidation action and demonstrated its ability to create regional military threats around the perimeter - at training facilities in the Kaliningrad, Leningrad and Pskov regions and in Belarus in the framework of the West-2017 exercises; in the Astrakhan region within the framework of Combat Commonwealth-2017; at the troops training facilities in their permanent deployment areas, and, according to NATO spokesman O. Lungescu, in the Arctic, the Far East, the Black Sea near the border with Ukraine, and also in Abkhazia.
The growing hostility between Russia and all other Belarus’ neighbours has prompted the latter to look for ways to relax tension in the region. Foreign Minister Makey at the UN General Assembly last week attempted to promote the idea of negotiations in Minsk between Russia, the EU, China and the US, to work out common approaches to regional security and consolidate mutual commitments. Minsk is likely to continue the policy of balancing, strengthening mutual trust with the EU, the US and China, while continuing close cooperation with Russia.
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.