Belarusian authorities aspire that Minsk becomes negotiating platform on security issues

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May 15, 2017 11:57
Фото: ukrinform.ru

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.

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Belarusian and Ukrainian Defence Ministries entangle in confrontation spiral
October 02, 2017 11:57
Фото: RFRM

Over the past year, military-political relations between Minsk and Kyiv have become complicated. Due to their high inertia and peculiarities, this downward trend would be extremely difficult to overcome.

The root cause of the crisis is the absence of a common political agenda in the Belarusian-Ukrainian relations. Minsk is looking for a market for Belarusian exports in Ukraine and offers its services as a negotiation platform for the settlement of the Russo-Ukrainian war, thereby hoping to avoid political issues in the dialogue with Kiev. Meanwhile, Ukraine is hoping for political support from Minsk in the confrontation with Moscow. In addition, Ukraine’s integration with NATO presupposes her common position with the Alliance in relation to Belarus. The NATO leadership regards the Belarusian Armed Forces as an integral part of the Russian military machine in the western strategic front (the Baltic states and Poland). In addition, the ongoing military reform in Ukraine envisages a reduction in the number of generals and the domestic political struggle makes some Ukrainian top military leaders targets in politically motivated attacks.

Hence, the criticism of Belarus coming from Ukrainian military leadership is dictated primarily by internal and external political considerations, as well as by the need to protect the interests of generals, and only then by facts.

For instance, initially, the Ukrainian military leadership made statements about 100,000 Russian servicemen allegedly taking part in the Russo-Belarusian military drill West-2017. Then the exercises were labelled quazi-open and military observers from Ukraine refused to provide their assessment, which caused a negative reaction in Minsk. Further, without citing specific facts, it was stated that Russia was building up its military presence in Belarus.

Apparently, the Belarusian and Ukrainian Defence Ministries have entangled in a confrontational spiral (on the level of rhetoric). Moreover, only a small part of the overly hidden process has been disclosed. That said, third states are very likely to take advantage of the situation (or have already done so). This is not only about Russia.

The Belarusian Defence Ministry officials are restrained in assessing their Ukrainian counterparts. However, such a restraint is not enough. Current military-political relations between Belarus and Ukraine are unlikely to stabilise without the intervention of both presidents.

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