Minsk will continue security ‘trade’ during "West-2017" drill
Minsk trading security with the West is an established trend. Last but not least, because the Belarusian authorities have no other "commodity" for sale. The ‘West-2017” Russo-Belarusian military drill is likely to be used in such a bargaining.
Over the past week, Belarus’ neighbours expressed concern due to the forthcoming Belarusian-Russian military drill. On August 22nd, 2017, Polish Deputy Defence Minister Michal Dworczyk voiced suspicions that more forces and means than stated by Minsk would be used in the drill. Earlier, Ukrainian Defence Minister Stepan Poltorak said that the "West-2017" drill posed a security threat to his country. Lithuania expressed concerns that due to the "West-2017", the Russian military presence in Belarus would expand and Russian troops would not be withdrawn from Belarus.
Meanwhile, the Belarusian authorities have demonstrated the awareness of their responsibility in the light of the security crisis in the region. Through international fora, Belarus is providing up to date information about the upcoming military drill with Russia to all interested parties. She has invited observers from European countries and international organizations, and announced the intention to promptly inform about the course of the drill.
The Belarusian authorities aim to use the “West-2017” military drill to demonstrate their transparency, good will and readiness to meet the expectations of Western countries and Ukraine, to some limits, however. The boundaries would depend on what the neighbouring states and the West could offer to Minsk. Simultaneously, it should be understood that, given the importance of regional security issues to Russia, Minsk’s flexibility would not be unlimited. Once there would come a point when demands and expectations of the West and Ukraine exceeded Belarus’ capabilities. This means, that security issues cannot (and would not be) the only agenda item in Belarus' relations with the West. The Belarusian authorities need to expand the topics for a dialogue with the European Union and the United States.
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.