Kremlin drawing Belarus into confrontation with NATO
Russian Air Force Commander Viktor Bondarev said that in 2015 Russia was planning to deploy a Russian regiment (24 SUs 27SM3) in Belarus permanently.
Belarus already has 4-10 Russian military fighter jets on duty to provide air defence and airspace integrity of the Union State. It is doubtful that the purpose of SUs-27SM3 in Belarus is to strengthen Belarus’ air defence system. Most likely, the Kremlin prompted Belarus to agree to stronger Russian military presence in a show of strength to NATO countries – in response to NATO’s activity in Poland and the Baltic States. Depending on NATO’s activity near the Russian and Belarusian borders, the Kremlin will continue to bolster its military presence in Belarus.
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.