Minsk has to play on the contradictions between the U.S. and Russia
Belarusian Foreign Ministry and Makey himself have raised the stakes in political bargaining between Belarus and the West. However, chances of Belarus revising its position about the (non) recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia are very low, so this issue is unlikely to be included in an existing set of requirements by the EU and U.S. to Belarus.
On October 30th, at joint news conference in Minsk, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and Belarusian Minister of Foreign Affairs Makey said that Belarus’ position regarding the recognition of the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia could change.
Belarus’ main goal during the Russo-Belarusian negotiations was to play on the existing contradictions between Russia and the U.S. That is why Makey’s reply to the question about Belarus’ position on Abkhazia and South Ossetia sounded extremely evasive: “Life is not standing still. Everything flows, everything changes”. The statements’ primary target group was Western observers.
Minsk is forced to act in this way due to the Kremlin’s consistent position regarding the political conflict between Belarus and the West. Minister Lavrov has once again made it clear that Russia considers the conflict Belarus’ internal affair and will not interfere to back up Minsk. At the same time, Lavrov expressed readiness to oppose unilateral sanctions by the UN (which is hardly relevant to Belarus, and is unlikely to become relevant).
We have to admit, that Makey’s maneuver succeeded. The very next day, U.S. Charge d’Affaires in Belarus Mr. Goldrich met with Makey’s Deputy Mr. Guryanov, against very favourable information background to discuss prospects for expanded cooperation with Belarus and implementation of “mutually beneficial projects in trade, economic and investment spheres”.
It is noteworthy that this autumn there was some synchronicity in meetings between Charge d’Affaires Goldrich and senior Belarusian Foreign Ministry amid meetings with Minister Lavrov. Prior to his visit to Moscow on September 19th, Minister Makey met with Goldrich and discussed the “key issues in the Belarusian-American relations”.
Such ‘balancing’ tactics is rather traditional for Belarus’ foreign policy and allows playing on the contradictions between Moscow and Washington. However, it should be noted that this tactic fails to have an impact on Kremlin’s position: Kremlin neither provides greater support in foreign policy, nor mitigates requirements in trade and economy. On the contrary, conflicts happen more often, in particular in the energy sector.
Makey’s reservation about potential shift in Belarus’ attitude about the (non) recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia should be treated as pure rhetoric. Such a step is highly unlikely, since previously, after Georgian Parliamentary elections, President Lukashenko said that “Belarus should not lose Georgia”. Finally, today, this issue has essentially lost its relevance even in Russia.
According to Belstat, in August 7,600 people were dismissed, including 4,800 civil servants. Dismissals of civil servants were due to the optimisation in the public administration by up to 30%. Some civil servants would retain their job however would lose the status of a civil servant. Vacancies on the labour market are likely to reduce in number, thanks to the optimisation, the state administration would increase wages for public servants. The payroll fund for retained employees is likely to increase and some former state employees are likely to get jobs in affiliated organizations. The optimisation of the state apparatus should complete by January 1st, 2018, and some former civil servants are likely to join the ranks of the unemployed.