Minsk aims to restore military dialogue with western capitals

September 26, 2016 10:28
Image: Belarus' MFA

Minsk continues adhering to a strategy aiming to erode value-base from the Belarusian-American normalisation. The Belarusian authorities seek to oust democratization and respect for human rights in Belarus with regional security issues. Such a strategy is mainly due to the economic situation in Belarus, rather than any real existing security threat.

On September 20th, 2016, during a visit to New York, Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei met with Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence Michael Carpenter. The parties discussed interactions between Belarus and the United States in the military sphere, as well as the establishment of a bilateral dialogue between military representatives of the two states, given the growing tension in the Eastern European region.

Previously, the Foreign Ministry avoided direct discussion about international cooperation in the military sphere, reserving this competence for the Defence Ministry. Meanwhile, the military attaches corps of Western countries represented in Belarus is negligible. Most military diplomats from NATO countries perform their functions with concurrent accreditation, i.e. their work in Belarus is not a priority for them. That said, Belarusian Defence Ministry representatives have long been neglecting civilian diplomats from NATO states, referring to the need to conduct all communication only through military attaches. NATO representatives regarded such attitude of the Belarusian defence body as unfriendly. Hence, Belarus never received an invitation to the NATO Summit in Warsaw.

Due to the economic crisis in Belarus, reduced financial support from Russia and the need for additional external funding, Minsk is prompted to demonstrate a more positive attitude towards NATO.

Apparently, the Belarusian Foreign Ministry has received a mandate from the highest political leadership to improve military cooperation between Belarus and NATO states. For some time, the Belarusian Defence Ministry will be obliged to follow the lead of the Foreign Ministry. Both, bilateral and multilateral dialogue between Belarus and NATO states is likely to stir up. Gradually, practical cooperation between military representatives may resume, albeit within the ‘framework’ set out by the Kremlin, i.e. until its negative reaction.

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The Belarusian authorities have launched a discussion on the moratorium or abolition of the death penalty under the pressure of Belarusian human rights activists and international community. Apparently, the authorities are interested in monitoring public sentiments and response to the possible abolition of the capital punishment. The introduction of a moratorium on the death penalty would depend on the dynamics in Belarusian-European relations, efforts of the civil society organisations and Western capitals.

In Grodno last week, the possibility of abolishing the death penalty in Belarus or introducing a moratorium was discussed.

The Belarusian authorities are likely to continue to support the death penalty in Belarus. During his rule, President Lukashenka pardoned only one person, and courts sentenced to death more than 400 people since the early 1990s. Over the past year, Belarusian courts sentenced to death several persons and one person was executed.

There are no recent independent polls about people’s attitude about the death penalty in Belarus. Apparently, this issue is not a priority for the population. In many ways, public opinion about the abolition of the death penalty would depend on the tone of the state-owned media reports.

That said, the Belarusian Orthodox Church and the Roman-Catholic Church stand for the abolition of the capital punishment, however their efforts in this regard only limit to public statements about their stance. Simultaneously, the authorities could have influenced public opinion about the death penalty through a focused media campaign in the state media. As they did, for example, with the nuclear power plant construction in Astravets. Initially unpopular project of the NPP construction was broadly promoted in the state media, and eventually, according to independent pollsters, was accepted by most population.