Minsk is ready to make concessions if Western capitals consider compromise
President Lukashenka has demonstrated a commitment to concessions in relations with Western capitals by allowing two opposition representatives in the Parliament. Due to a serious shortage of funds, Minsk is likely to use all available resources to enhance its influence in Washington and to unlock access to international loans.
The USA would reconsider sanctions against Minsk if the situation with democracy and human rights improved, State Department Spokesperson Mark Toner told reporters.
The long-lasting negotiations over gas and oil issues with Russia imply that tension has built up in Russo-Belarusian relations and that the Kremlin has taken a hard line. Amid strengthened power component in the Kremlin’s foreign policy, the Belarusian authorities may wary about enhanced aggression from the Kremlin in relations with Minsk.
In addition, the authorities could have decided to allow Anna Konopatskaya from the UCP and Elena Anisim to win parliamentary seats in order to reduce influence of former presidential candidate Tatsiana Karatkevich from Tell the Truth campaign. Besides, the non-recognition of the Belarusian Parliamentary elections implies that President Lukashenka remained the only legitimate negotiator on the international arena.
Before the Parliamentary race started in Belarus, US Charge d'Affaires in Belarus Roland Scott made a statement about the possibility of mutual exchange of ambassadors, which was probably interpreted by the Belarusian authorities as a desire to remove tension in bilateral relations. Minsk regards Washington as the main obstacle in access to international loans.
Overall, Minsk is ready to make concessions on its terms.
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.