Minsk creates positive information environment for oil and gas settlement with Kremlin
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich said that reports about preliminary approval of the cheaper gas price for Belarus were false. Apparently, as Russia delays the final decision, Belarus has exhausted arguments and patience in negotiations with Russia over oil supplies to Belarus and over reduced gas price. The Belarusian government is attempting to create a positive information background in order to impose its conditions onto the Kremlin in oil and gas tension. The president has publicly supported the act of a representative from the Belarusian delegation, who carried the Russian flag during the Paralympics 2016 opening in Rio de Janeiro, which caused a public outcry in Russian society and joyful comments by Russian officials. The Belarusian authorities are also taking decisive and tough measures to counter the opposition activity, which could be negatively perceived in Russia. In all likelihood, Minsk is counting on political loyalty demonstrations and on creating a positive image of the Belarusian authorities in Russian society in order to settle the long-running dispute over oil and gas supplies.
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.