Minsk seeks additional security guarantees
Being caught between confronting Russia and the West and having problems in relations with each of them, the Belarusian authorities seek additional security guarantees. They aim to engage an influential geopolitical player capable of stabilising the situation in Eastern Europe.
Following his participation in One Belt, One Road Forum in Beijing, President Lukashenka announced further deepening of Sino-Belarusian cooperation in the security field. In particular, the parties would establish a permanent working group to counter "colour" revolutions, terrorism and extremism.
Minsk’s manoeuvres between Russia, the West and Ukraine with the desire to gain benefits here and there have resulted in a loss of confidence in the Belarusian authorities by all sides in the confrontation. This means, that in the case of a security crisis, Belarus will be unable to count on effective external support. In fact, it turns out, that she is not an ally for any of the regional players, including Russia.
There is a need for a new player in Eastern Europe, whose position could not be disregarded by the regional power centres, and who has a friendly attitude towards Minsk. The Belarusian authorities regard China as such a potential actor. They believe that Beijing, which has increased its economic and military power, is ready to enter the international arena as an independent global power centre. The exclusive nature of Sino-Belarusian relations (according to the Belarussian authorities) would help China to become a guarantor of Belarus’ security. For a long time, the Belarusian leadership positioned itself as "a donor of regional security", and now the regional donor requires a global donor.
Chinese foreign policy is characterized by the lack of desires to assume large-scale commitments, especially when they are not offset with comparable economic benefits. China has limited interest in cooperation with Belarus, which is highly pragmatic and practical on Chinese side. And there are no reasons to believe this would change in the future. Belarus and China are likely to continue developing cooperation in the military-industrial complex, exchange experience and information in the security field and etc. However, in the near future, Beijing is unlikely to provide any formal or informal security and stability guarantees to Belarus and to the ruling regime in particular.
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.