Lukashenko secures himself against the power change in Georgia
President Lukashenko has made it clear that after the Georgian President Saakashvili party’s loss during the parliamentary elections, he is ready to cooperate with Invanishvili’s winning party “Georgian Dream”. In return, he offered Georgia his mediation support in relations with Russia, but Georgia is unlikely to be interested.
On October 4th, President Lukashenko gave an interview to the Interstate TV and Radio Company “Mir”*. To a significant extent, the interview was devoted to the past parliamentary elections in Georgia and the Belarusian-Georgian relations.
Belarus is interested in preserving Georgian support in international organizations, especially within the EU “Eastern Partnership” Programme and UN institutions. To be more specific, Belarus requires Georgian delegation’s political support in the Eastern Partnership’s Parliamentary Assembly EURONEST, where Belarusian parliamentary delegation has not yet been officially represented and moreover, is a subject to harsh criticism from the European Parliament.
In bilateral relations, it is important for Belarus to maintain cooperation with Georgia on migration issues: a visa-free regime de facto opens Russian border for Georgian nationals. Such a regime is one of the Belarusian geopolitics’ components, enabling the authorities to remain a “gateway” to the evolving Eurasian Economic Union. In turn, Georgia provided political support to Belarus at the Foreign Ministry level, particularly, during the acute phase in the Belarus – EU conflict in the spring of 2012.
Therefore, after the “Georgian Dream” won the parliamentary elections on October 1st, President Lukashenko felt necessary to send an unambiguous signal to Tbilisi about his desire to maintain continuity in bilateral relations. Lukashenko said that he saw no fundamental differences in the Ivanishvili’s and Saakashvili’s parties’ policies. The Belarusian President also offered himself as a mediator in the Georgian-Russian conflict over Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
The problem with this kind of mediation is that its success requires a common internationally recognized institution. President Lukashenko proposed that the CIS could play such role, bearing in mind potential Belarus’ chairmanship in 2013. However, after the armed conflict in 2008, Georgia is not willing to return to the CIS and a “Georgian Dream” representative has already made a statement in this regard.
Therefore, Belarus’ mediation efforts in the Georgian-Russian conflict, as well as the attempt of the Belarusian leadership to improve its international status within the CIS are futile. Probably, bilateral cooperation between Belarus and Georgia will remain at the current level, which is perfectly acceptable for the authorities.
* Interstate TV and Radio Program “Mir” is available in 14 post-Soviet states. Its overall audience is about 15 million people (analog broadcasting), 48 million (cable broadcasting), and about 25 million (satellite broadcast).
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.