Minsk aims to restore military dialogue with western capitals
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.
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.