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Belarusian state propaganda cynically uses Syrian tragedy

May 15, 2017 11:44
Image: Voice of America News: Scott Bobb reports from Aleppo, Syria

The Belarusian state propaganda uses the tragedy of the civil war in Syria for its own needs. That said, the Belarusian authorities realistically assess Assad prospects to win the war. Although they formally support the government in Damascus, they do so in a very restrained manner: Syria, destroyed by the war, is not regarded as a promising partner in the Middle East.

Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad has appeared on the Belarusian state television, which has become a notable event. However, the Belarusian propaganda has appealed to the Syrian events purely for domestic reasons.

Syria has practically ceased to exist as a single state. Assad retains control over part of Syria solely thanks to direct military intervention by Russia and Iran. Minsk is well aware of that. For many years, the Belarusian authorities have built partnerships with the Arabian monarchies and Turkey with varying degrees of success. The latter, provide financial, political and military support to anti-Assad rebels. Minsk is carrying out an extremely pragmatic, if not cynical, foreign policy. It has no practical reason to support Bashir al-Assad and jeopardize already established relations with Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey.

Bashir al-Assad’s interview with the Belarusian state television should be regarded as:

- intimidation of the Belarusian population with possible consequences of political destabilization. That said, Ukraine as a negative example is becoming less effective. The severity of the war in Syria provides the state propaganda with a lot more texture

- a demarche designed to demonstrate discontent with the Western policy towards Belarus

- a gesture of loyalty to Russia, which is increasingly drawn into the Syrian civil war, and expressing discontent with the fact that she does not receive political and moral support from her formal allies

The fact that Bashir al-Assad has appeared on the Belarusian state TV is not a sign that the Belarusian-Syrian relations have entered a new stage, let alone that Minsk has engaged in the Syrian conflict. The Belarusian authorities in a conventional manner attempt to use the crisis in other states to address their domestic political and propaganda issues.

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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.