Belarusian authorities wish to improve their relations with OSCE
Deputy Foreign minister of Belarus Alena Kupchyna took part in an informal high-level OSCE meeting in Helsinki.
Official Minsk intends to tone down the criticism of international observers on presidential elections in Belarus. Belarusian authorities also try to remove the topic of the electoral campaign from the agenda, focusing on the unstable situation in the region and their role in mitigating the conflict in the Ukraine instead. Most likely the authorities will not put pressure on their political opponents, at least at early stages of the campaign.
An informal meeting consisted of two parts: a ceremonial meeting and an informal high-level discussion on current OSCE-related issues. Besides, Deputy Foreign minister Alena Kupchyna held bilateral meetings with the director of OSCE/ODIHR Michael Link and Deputy Foreign ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Italy, and Sweden.
It is worth mentioning that the official Minsk made numerous claims about the need to reform OSCE. Belarusian authorities usually voice such initiatives when OSCE criticizes their handling of elections in Belarus.
During his meeting with the acting head of OSCE the foreign minister of Serbia Ivica Dacic, Foreign minister of Belarus U. Makei formulated his vision of the possible transformation of OSCE, underlining a serious crisis of the organization in regards to the conflict in the Ukraine: “Today the main principle of OSCE activities is accusations according to the principle “I am right, you are not”. Our common goal is to stop these mutual accusations and to find common ground for OSCE activity”.
In her turn the head of the Central Election Committee Lidziya Yarmoshyna selected the same mode of behavior in regards to OSCE at the seminar dedicated to elections in Vienna. According to Yarmoshyna the main thesis of her speech at the seminar was the thesis that the international observers should not be used to pressure states. At the same time Belarusian authorities are ready to listen to criticism from the part of international observers underlining the desire to improve the human rights situation as well as election law in the country. However, this does not mean change of election practices.
According to press secretary of Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Dzmitry Mironchyk the first round of Belarus-EU dialogue on human rights will take place on July 28th in Brussels. The attempt to start such a dialogue was made in 2009 before previous presidential elections. A single round of the discussion took place then.
Official Minsk intends to tone down the criticism of international observers of the presidential elections, increasingly accentuating the unstable situations in the region and the role of Belarus in mitigating the conflict in the Ukraine.
At the same time the authorities indeed softened their stance to their opponents which is most probably a consequence of a low activity of oppositional parties at the elections. Besides, the population seems to be disinterested in the elections as well.
At the same time, official Minsk intends to tone down significantly the criticism of international organizations on the issues of human rights and the transparency of presidential elections.
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.