Minsk loses interest in developing contacts with distant countries
Amid improvements in Belarusian-European relations, Minsk has reduced the intensity of contacts with Asian and Latin American states and focused on domestic agenda. The Belarusian Foreign Ministry’s strategy aiming to develop relations with the ‘far arc’ countries has lost its relevance in the context of intense liaisons with Western capitals and a lull in relations with the Kremlin. In addition, relations with China require a revision of the ‘long arc’ concept to identify a special place for Sino-Belarusian relations.
At a meeting with the head of the executive power of Afghanistan Abdullah Abdullah President Lukashenka said that Belarus and Afghanistan should move from talks to building concrete cooperation.
The Belarusian leadership has managed to break through its international isolation, including through holding the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in Minsk, which has reduced the need to demonstrate foreign policy successes to the population by establishing relations with the leaders of the ‘far arc’ states. In addition, Minsk is attempting to take maximum advantage of the CEI chairmanship, which prompts to focus foreign policy efforts on the West and reduce contacts with the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Some economic recovery in H1 2017 has allowed President Lukashenka to relax efforts in searching for economic partners in the ‘far arc’ states. Unlike in previous years, the president has focused on the domestic political agenda and the participation in propaganda activities inside the country, rather than making foreign trips and meeting with the leaders of the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Latin America.
The Belarusian Foreign Ministry is likely to revise the ‘far arc’ concept and enhance China's role in Belarus' foreign policy. Minsk is likely to balance out human rights claims from Western capitals and political and economic pressure from the Kremlin by developing relations with Beijing, rather than other ‘far arc’ states.
President Lukashenka continues to rotate staff and rejuvenate heads of departments and universities following new appointments in regional administrations. Apparently, new Information Minister Karliukevich could somewhat relax the state policy towards the independent media and introduce technological solutions for retaining control over Belarus’ information space. New rectors could strengthen the trend for soft Belarusization in the regions and tighten the disciplinary and ideological control over the student movement in the capital.
President Lukashenka has appointed new ministers of culture and information, the new rector of the Belarusian State University and heads of three universities, assistants in the Minsk and Vitebsk regions.
The new Information Minister Karliukevich is likely to avoid controversial initiatives similar to those former Minister Ananich was famous for, however, certainly within his capacities. Nevertheless, the appointment of Belarusian-speaking writer Karliukevich could be regarded as the state’s cautious attempt to relax environment in the media field and ensure the sovereignty of national media.
The Belarusian leadership has consolidated the trend for mild Belarusization by appointing a young historian and a ‘reasonable nationalist’, Duk as the rector at the Kuleshov State University in Mogilev. Meanwhile, while choosing the head of the Belarusian State University, the president apparently had in mind the strengthening of the ideological loyalty among the teaching staff and students at the main university in order to keep the youth movement at bay. Previously, Korol was the rector of the Kupala State University in Grodno, where he held purges among the disloyal teaching staff.
The trend for the renewal of mid-ranking executives and their rejuvenation has confirmed. The age of the Culture Minister and three new rectors varies from 39 to 44 years old.