Minsk will not engage in conflicts in Post-Soviet space
The escalation in Karabakh has once again raised issues of the CSTO capacity, Belarus’ involvement in the conflicts in the Post-Soviet space and her priorities in the South Caucasus. Belarusian policy in the South Caucasus is determined by financial and economic interests and not by commitments within post-Soviet associations. Minsk has neither recognised the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, nor introduced a visa regime with Georgia. Belarus has consistently supported peaceful reintegration of Karabakh with Azerbaijan. Then again, she would side with the non-peaceful one too.
The escalation between Armenia and Azerbaijani has somewhat revived Minsk’s political activity, as it seeks to consolidate its ‘peacemaker’ status in the post-Soviet space. Moreover, Azerbaijan is Belarus’ partner number one in the South Caucasus. In addition, the Belarusian authorities are interested in developing comprehensive cooperation with Turkey, Baku’s ally.
Alexander Lukashenka and Ilham Aliyev are close friends. Baku has repeatedly acted as a safety-cushion for Minsk by providing urgent loans worth hundreds of millions of dollars to help Belarus to maintain her financial stability.
Minsk’s pro-Azerbaijani position therefore is natural. And the fact that Armenia is the CSTO member, makes Belarus’ position most diplomatic. And there are no reasons for this to change in the future.
Armenia does not recognise the independence of Karabakh, and is not formally a party to the incident escalation as its territory is not subject to aggression. In its current form, the conflict does not affect any commitments of Belarus within the CSTO framework.
It is worth noting that the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) was created for quite pragmatic reasons: to train staff and maintain equipment and defence systems left over from the Soviet Union. Initially, the CSTO did not have any ideological or value-based framework. Russia’s subsequent attempts to transform the CSTO into a NATO analogue came to nothing.
The cooperation within the CSTO splits into two "dimensions":
- Practical matters (military-technical, education, communication, defence industry, etc.)
- Regional defence alliances (Eastern European, Caucasian and Central Asian)
That said, only Russia has vital interests in all three regions. Other CSTO regions are "linked" together through Moscow.
The CSTO member states have committed to assist each other in case of aggression against one of them. However, potential assistance is not limited to military measures and includes a range of responses: political, diplomatic, informational, logistical, financial, etc. In addition, all decisions within the CSTO require a consensus.
The CSTO does not envisage a mechanism, which could prompt Belarus to enter the war in the Central Asian and Trans-Caucasian regions. None of the CSTO member states is eager to fight for other CSTO members. Russia’s attempts to set CSTO against NATO have failed due to the efforts of the "junior partners": Moscow is simply unable to cope with all its allies at once.
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.