Minsk aggravates relations with Kremlin to resolve oil and gas dispute
Minsk has intentionally aggravated the Belarusian-Russian relations in order to resolve the protracted dispute over oil and gas supplies. Previously, Minsk has applied efforts to create a positive information background and to promote amicable attitude towards Belarus among the Russian population. Nevertheless, the Belarusian authorities are not interested in reducing their participation in the Kremlin’s integration projects.
At a meeting with the State Secretary of the Union State Grigory Rapota last week, President Lukashenka urged Russia to decide on the future of joint integration projects.
The Union State remains a symbol of a special and close relationship between Belarus and Russia, and amid enhanced international isolation, its importance for the Kremlin’s domestic politics has increased. Belarus treats the Union State as an additional mechanism for preserving the exclusive relationship with Moscow and for promoting her interests. Apparently, despite the expectations of the Belarusian leadership, Union State officials attempted to avoid becoming involved in the energy dispute between Minsk and Moscow.
The Belarusian president has used the right timing in order to escalate tension over oil and gas issues with Russia. Russian society is extremely supportive of Minsk after the Belarusian delegation carried the Russian flag in the opening parade at the Paralympic Games 2016. In addition, the Russo-Belarusian escalation is taking place amid the IMF mission in Minsk. According to the Belarusian leadership, after it has demonstrated progress in the parliamentary elections, the window of opportunity to improve relations with western capitals has once again reopened, thus providing the Belarusian president with additional inspiration.
Despite multiple integration agreements between Belarus and Russia, Belarusian producers continue experiencing problems with supplies to the Russian market. For instance, most recently, there were several reports about Rosselkhoznadzor blocking supplies of Belarusian agricultural products to Russia.
Nevertheless, despite the escalation over energy supplies to Belarus, Minsk has not questioned its participation in the Kremlin’s integration projects.
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.