CIS Summit postponed decisions on most important issues for Belarusian authorities
The Belarusian authorities had to postpone until the year-end the decision on the most important for them issues regarding the economic cooperation with Russia. According to the ruling group, Russia is not interested in deteriorated relations with Belarus and continues to provide financial support, in spite of the non- fulfillment of the agreement conditions by the Belarusian side.
On 5 December President Lukashenko took part in the Summit of the CIS states in Ashgabad.
For Belarus the main result of the Summit in Ashgabad is a negative one, namely the negotiations between Presidents Lukashenko and Putin failed to take place. There is a probability that the Russian President has ignored his Belarusian Colleague due to the recent statement made by Lukashenko to the “Reuter” agency on the health problems of Putin. In any case, the bilateral meeting has never taken place and the Press-Service of Lukashenko announced that such event had not been even planned.
As a result Minsk had to postpone the decision of the most important economic questions (first of all it is the balance of the oil supplies for 2013 as well as a number of privatization agreements) to December 19th, when the sitting of the Supreme State Council of the Union State of Belarus and Russia should take place in Moscow.
At the same time, Moscow continues to demonstrate its political will to consider the financial problems of Belarus: on December 7th the Anti-crisis Fund of the Euro-Asian Economic Union (EuroAsEs) provided to Belarus the 4th tranche of USD 440 million. Moreover, the Belarusian and Russian financial officials agreed that Minsk has not fulfilled all the conditions of the credit agreement, and that the decision on the provision of the tranche is a political one.
Most likely that in the surrounding of Lukashenko they highly value the interest of the Russian authorities in the development of the project of the Euro-Asian Economic Union and that is why Minsk continues to fulfill selectively the agreements with the Kremlin in the sphere of privatization and financial politics – even if theoretically there is a threat not to sign the important agreements for the next year. Such a policy of the “taking by attrition” is a customary common practice for Minsk: e.g. the agreement on the gas provisions to Belarus in 2007 was signed on 31 December 2006 just few minutes before the New Year.
At the same time it is worth noting that President Lukashenko remains the center of the decision making in Belarus. That is why one should not underestimate the meaning of the other channels in decision making, in particular, the 12 December planned bilateral meeting of Prime-Minister of the Republic of Belarus Myasnikovich and Russian Prime-Minister Medvedev in the framework of the Council of Ministers of the Union State. The stand of Prime-Minister Myasnikovich today is especially week, and he is not in a position to influence on the decisions of Lukashenko in favor of the Kremlin.
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.