Minsk steps up loan dependence on Russia
Last week, President Lukashenka met with President Putin in Moscow, took part in the session of the Supreme State Council of the Union State and visited the Forum of Regions. Minsk and the Kremlin have demonstrated that they have overcome the crisis in bilateral relations and the absence of contradictions between Belarus and Russia. Before the event, Belarus has received the fourth tranche of the EFSR loan (USD 300 million) despite the failure to meet one of the requirements. In addition, Belarus has received a loan from Russia to purchase combat aircrafts. Apparently, President Lukashenka's visit to Moscow was a symbolic one, aiming to consolidate the positive trend in the Russo-Belarusian relations. Despite several statements about developing bilateral economic integration projects, most likely, they would remain mere declarations of intention without the implementation (as well as previous attempts by Russian business to privatise Belarusian enterprises). Allegedly, Belarus insisted on greater transparency of the West-2017 joint military exercise to relax tension and claims from Western capitals. However, even as regards military-technical cooperation, the Kremlin continues to reduce support for its Western ally: despite the loan for the purchase of combat aircraft, Russia has not offered any integration discounts to Minsk. That said, the parties are nevertheless prompted to make some concessions to each other due to mutual dependence.
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.