Belarusian-Ukrainian relations at low ebb
The meeting between Lukashenka and Poroshenko has demonstrated that the Ukrainian leadership has low political confidence in Minsk. Over the past three years, Kyiv seems to have lost political confidence in Minsk. Consequently, bilateral relations are likely to focus on cooperation in spheres of mutual dependence.
The Belarusian-Ukrainian Summit has demonstrated the lack of political trust between the two states. Negotiations focused on economic issues and Belarus once again reiterated its stance that her territory would not be used as a springboard for aggression against Ukraine. The fact that Kyiv regularly encourages Minsk publicly to confirm the security guarantees implies there is the lack of confidence in the consistency of its actions.
Lukashenka’s statements in March, that some Belarusian radicals were trained in Ukraine, were equivalent to accusations of hostile actions towards Belarus or Kyiv’s inability to ensure order in the country. Such accusations have reaffirmed the national-patriotic part of the Ukrainian society in its belief that the ally of the aggressor (Belarus) could not be a reliable partner for the victim of aggression (Ukraine). Consequently, Kyiv should give a symmetrical response to any unfriendly steps by Minsk. In addition, cooperation on security matters should be kept to a minimum.
The lack of trust between Minsk and Kyiv has already affected cooperation on politically sensitive matters (military-industrial, technology transfer, confidential information exchange, lobbying each other's interests). Belarusian-Ukrainian bilateral relations are on the wane. In the future, cooperation between Belarus and Ukraine is likely to narrow down to issues, which exclude alternative partners, such as border security, for example, or when the alternative would prompt higher costs, such as supply of petrochemicals, electricity, and some engineering produces.
President Lukashenka has met with the head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov, who visited Minsk and the Minsk Automobile Plant. Minsk has always sought to have independent links with Russian regional elites, partially, to compensate for the Kremlin's diminishing interest in Belarus. In recent years, Belarus’ contacts with the Russian regions have been extremely intense. However, with some leaders of Russian regions, primarily heads of large republics, communication was more difficult to build. As many analysts in Minsk suggested, Minsk could regard contacts between President Lukashenka and the head of Chechnya as an additional communication channel for relieving tension in relations with the Kremlin. However, most likely, a trusting relationship with Kadyrov is a value for Minsk as such, provided Kadyrov’s broad business and political interests, and a high degree of autonomy for the Chechen leader from the Kremlin.