Minsk hopes for Belarusian-Western normalisation to continue
The European Parliament approved a resolution condemning "repressions before and during the March 25th demonstration" in Belarus and describing the actions of Belarusian security forces as "disproportionate and inappropriate". Minsk harshly responded to the EP resolution about human rights in Belarus, but, unlike the Kremlin, cautiously reacted to the US missile strike on the Syrian air base in Sheirat. The Belarusian leadership expects the geopolitical confrontation and tension between the Western capitals and Moscow to intensify, which, in all likelihood, should reduce claims and criticism by the EU and the US towards the Belarusian authorities regarding their actions in relation to the opposition and the protest movement. Despite the sharp reaction of some European institutions to tightening pressure on the opposition, the authorities aspire to continue normalisation with the EU and the US and demonstrate readiness for some concessions with regard to human rights and democracy. The Belarusian authorities are likely to relax the grip on the opponents after they are finally convinced that unauthorised street protests have been curtailed.
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.