Belarusian authorities aspire that Minsk becomes negotiating platform on security issues
Minsk has put geopolitical differences in the region in the spotlight and is attempting to renew and учеутв its image as a ‘security donor’ in the eyes of Western capitals. The Belarusian leadership consistently promotes Minsk as an international negotiating platform between East and West. Very likely, Belarusian diplomats are considering the possibility of Minsk’s more active involvement in the settlement of the Syrian crisis.
Last week, Belarusian Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Kravchenko was on a working visit to the US, where he met with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Bridget Brink, as well as with the leadership of the Bureau for Human Rights, Democracy and Labour.
The visit of the Deputy Head of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry to Washington aimed to remove the possible tension in bilateral relations in connection with West-2017, a large-scale Russo-Belarusian military exercise. During his visit to the US, Deputy Foreign Minister Kravchenko participated in the discussion "Between East and West: Belarus at the Crossroads" organized by the Atlantic Council analytical centre. Public presentation by Belarusian diplomats along with American media and experts was an unusual move and was used by the Belarusian Foreign Ministry as an additional communication channel in order to step up trust levels between the states. The Belarusian authorities have attempted to use the event to mitigate criticism against Belarus with regard to democracy and demonstrate readiness for a dialogue on human rights issues.
Belarusian diplomacy has exhausted the negotiating capacity to resolve the conflict in the east of Ukraine and started searching for new opportunities to update and extend its international image as a security donor. Apparently, Minsk counts on the fatigue of Western capitals and the Kremlin from mutual confrontation, as well as on their readiness to contacts amid renewed corps of officials in the US and the EU.
The Belarusian authorities have tested the possibility of Minsk’s involvement in the settlement of the conflict in Syria in the Belarusian public space. Over the past month, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has twice appeared in Belarusian state media with an address to the Belarusian people. Perhaps, Minsk anticipates a gradual de-escalation of the armed conflict in Syria in the short or medium term. In addition, the Belarusian leadership is likely to be considering the possibility of assisting the Kremlin in organising the "Minsk process" on Syria in the hope for mutually beneficial strengthening of positions on the international level.
Overall, the Belarusian authorities hope to shift the EU and US focus from the democratisation and human rights issues to Belarus’ greater involvement in the international dialogue on armed conflicts resolution and combating international terrorism, cooperation and assistance on security issues.
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.