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Minsk is attempting to remove barriers in relations with Astana

June 12, 2017 12:09
Image: Belarus Security Blog

Minsk has used political contacts with Astana to balance the Kremlin’s actions, however, recently Belarusian and Kazakh interests have been at odds on some issues. Apparently, the Kazakh leadership has a cautious attitude towards the Minsk’s attempt to initiate a peacekeeping process on the international agenda. Meanwhile, preserving acceptable cooperation levels with Astana within the Eurasian space is of key importance for Minsk.

Next week, President Lukashenka will make a working visit to Kazakhstan, where he will attend a meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

Kazakhstan is ready to support Belarus on the international arena as long as it is in line with Kazakh interests and not in opposition to the Kremlin. Over the past 20 years, bilateral relations between Minsk and Astana were free from serious complications.

Economic ties between Belarus and Kazakhstan are insignificant and the latter appears to be more interested in the integration with China. That said, cooperation with China is a priority for the Kazakh leadership and Minsk may even regard China as a rival. Apparently, the meeting should remove this tension and, possibly, strengthen mutual interests.

Kazakhstan has made attempts to become a negotiating platform for the Syrian conflict. Meanwhile, Minsk has attempted to seize this initiative, and the Kazakh leadership is unenthusiastic about it. This initiative is crucial for the Belarusian authorities and, according to them, Astana should take a back seat on this matter.

Minsk and Astana are competing for the Kremlin’s attention and are not willing to cave in to mutual claims, which could cause tension and conflicts. Nevertheless, both have common interests within the EEU framework, which is dominated by Russian lobbyists. Hence, by joining efforts, Belarus and Kazakhstan could stand against them more effectively.

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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.