Belarusian-Russian food confrontation has not passed acute phase
As of August 13th, 2016, Rosselkhoznadzor temporarily restricted imports from JSC "Bellakt", JSC "Rogachev Milk Canning Plant" and PUP "Kalinkovichi Dairy Plant" for "numerous violations" of Russian and EEU veterinary and phytosanitary requirements. Russia’s frequent complaints about the quality of Belarusian foodstuffs have objective and subjective reasons. On the one hand, low profitability of Belarusian exporters and agricultural production as a whole due to reduced state support and requirements to cut costs by one-fourth, have prompted dairy companies to "optimize" their mass production, including through using cheap raw materials, violating technology and recipes. On the other hand, the Russian authorities have toughened competition for Belarusian exporters on the Russian market, so as sanctions have encouraged Russia to support own agricultural production. Finally, Russia is using administrative means to restrict Belarusian exports in order to put pressure on Belarus in military-technical cooperation, foreign policy manoeuvres and to prompt her to comply with the food embargo.
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.