Minsk offers friendship to Yerevan and weapons to Baku
While declaring friendship with Armenia, in reality, Minsk takes pro-Azerbaijani position. This is due to both, special personal relations between Aliyev and Lukashenka, and Belarus’ pragmatic interests.
At a meeting with outgoing Armenian Ambassador Armen Khachatryan on March 28th, 2017, Lukashenka talked about the great importance of friendly relations with Yerevan for Belarus. Meanwhile, Belarus’ policy in the South Caucasus prioritises strategic partnership with Baku, including in the military-technical sphere, which directly affects Armenia’s security.
In early September 2016, the news broke that Russia supplied the Iskander-E tactical missile systems with a 280 km range to Armenia. Baku announced its intention to find a symmetrical response to the rearmament of the Armenian army. The Belarusian military-industrial complex was prompt to take advantage of the situation. At ADEX-2016, a military exhibition hosted by Baku on September 27th - 30th, Belarus presented the MLRS Polonaise with a 300 km range, which became of the most important presentations. President Aliyev received the Belarusian military delegation personally, which was not a mere protocol decision. Within ADEX-2016 the Azerbaijani leader personally received representatives of only three countries - Turkey, Pakistan and Belarus.
That said, as a rule, Belarus’ law enforcement delegations are received at the highest political level. In addition, Azerbaijani generals publicly thank Belarusian generals for supporting Azerbaijan's position on Nagorno-Karabakh. It is understood that Armenia has cautious attitude to such statements.
Tension between Minsk and Yerevan is likely to persist. Despite the fact, that Belarus and Armenia are formally Russia's closest allies and are the CSTO members; their positions on security issues in the South Caucasus differ fundamentally. Armenia is likely to attempt to use the CSTO and her special relations with Moscow to put political pressure on Belarus and somewhat restrict military-technical cooperation between Minsk and Baku. However, such actions are unlikely to have any tangible effect: Belarus receives concrete benefits from cooperation with Azerbaijan, while Armenia has nothing to offer.
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.