Belarusian Foreign Ministry requests Kremlin’s support at international fora
On July 10th, Belarus’ Foreign Minister Vladimir Makey paid a working visit to Moscow and met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
The Belarusian Foreign Ministry is trying to enlist the Kremlin’s support at the most important international fora - the United Nations and the OSCE - to influence Russia’s official positions vis-à-vis Belarus. However, the Kremlin is not interested in undertaking efforts to assist Belarus and the status quo will be maintained.
Despite regular meetings between the Belarusian Foreign Ministry and its EU counterparts, there have been no qualitative changes in relations between Minsk and Washington/Brussels. As previously noted, since late 2012, high-ranking Belarusian diplomats have dramatically increased their level of cooperation and continue with regular bilateral and multilateral meetings.
On July 11th, Belarus’ Deputy Foreign Minister, Elena Kupchina, met with EU representative in Belarus, Maira Mora. Earlier Kupchina and Mora met in February and March 2013. Bilateral meetings were also held regularly in Europe and the U.S.: e.g., Belarusian-Irish Ministerial Consultations in Dublin on July 9th (led by Kupchina), Belarusian-American consultations on June 24th, with U.S. State Department (led by Chief Directorate for Multilateral Diplomatic Relations head Yuri Ambrazevich) and others.
However, such an active meetings schedule has not yet resulted in any political changes in the negotiation process: so far, Belarus has failed to implement bilateral and multilateral conditions for resuming dialogue, while the West holds onto its position and insists on the release and rehabilitation of political prisoners. These conditions vis-à-vis Belarus have been reiterated at two important international cooperation fora: the UN Human Rights Council and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.
In this regard, it is noteworthy that during his visit to Moscow, Minister Makey discussed with his counterpart Lavrov how ‘to coordinate positions within major international organizations: the UN and the OSCE’, and during the final press conference he emphasized the need to lift Western sanctions against Belarus. In late June, Makey published an article “Human Rights: who made them a barrier for international cooperation?’ in the English edition of the Russian magazine Russia in Global Affairs. The article is a critical review of the human rights idea in a historical and philosophical context, based on publications by Western authors. It concluded with a call to recognize other cultures’ importance and value their uniqueness.
Belarus is interested in Russia’s support in this value-political sphere. Such support is particularly relevant in view of the fact that in mid-June, the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Belarus in the UN human Rights Council Miklos Haraszti was extended for one year. Haraszti wrote a harsh report on the human rights situation in Belarus. In addition, in early July, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly adopted another resolution on Belarus calling for the immediate release and rehabilitation of the political prisoners.
It should be noted that Moscow has always publicly supported Belarus at these international fora and advocated for conflict-free relations between Minsk and the West. In fact, Belarus’ international political deadlock with the West is objectively playing into the Russia’s hands. Therefore, the Kremlin’s support for Belarus in foreign policy should not be anticipated.
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.