Lukashenko controls Russo-Belarusian cooperation issues
On May 21st, Belarus and Russia Prime Ministers Myasnikovich and Medvedev met in Moscow.
The Prime Ministers’ meeting results confirmed assessment that President Lukashenko was still in control of privatization in Belarus. Therefore, the most controversial issues of the Belarusian-Russian cooperation will be addressed at the meeting between presidents Lukashenka and Putin in Astana in late May at the CES Summit.
The meeting between Myasnikovich and Medvedev had negative results. The parties failed to agree on the most contentious bilateral relations issues: privatization and oil trade. Earlier, the two countries’ Deputy Prime Ministers Semashko and Dvorkovich also failed in reaching the final agreement. Thus, the issue of oil supply volume to Belarus in Q3 and Q4 2013 remains unresolved (must be signed by mid-June).
In Russo-Belarusian relations, Prime Minister Myasnikovich is only a ‘technical’ figure with no independent influence. He managed to strengthen his positions during the 2011 crisis, but later failed to preserve his political capital. Therefore, no breakthroughs should be anticipated during Medvedev’s visit to Minsk on May 31st to participate in the Council of CIS Heads of Government meeting, since these issues are not resolved at the Prime Minister’s level.
President Lukashenko is the key political figure in Belarus’ foreign policy and Belarusian-Russian relations in particular. Lukashenko’s nearest opportunity to meet with Putin will be in late May at the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council meeting of the Common Economic Space member states.
Noteworthy, the two planned meetings between Lukashenko and Putin failed to take place, one in Sochi on May 10th during the amateur hockey tournament, and the second at the informal CSTO summit on May 28th in Bishkek. The first meeting was disrupted after the controversial disqualification of the Belarusian President’s hockey team, and the second (on May 28th) will not take place due to the revised Summit’s agenda, which will focus on the Central Asian security issues. Thus, Belarus and Armenia will not participate in the Summit.
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.