Moscow conditions the parliamentary elections’ recognition with implementation of bilateral agreements
Kremlin promises the recognition of the parliamentary elections in Belarus in exchange for the implementation of bilateral economic agreements. In turn, Belarus will try to get the elections’ recognition and to put off privatization.
On August 14-15, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was on a working visit in Minsk, meeting with President Lukashenko and Belarusian Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov.
The main public message during Lavrov’s visit was Russia’s willingness to recognize the parliamentary elections to be held in Belarus in September. Minister Lavrov vowed to ensure the participation of Russian observers in several observation missions, which will operate in Belarus during the elections, organized by various international organizations: OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, OSCE/ODIHR and the CIS.
However, these political promises by Lavrov should be considered in the context of the ongoing economic bargaining between Belarus and Russia. In particular, Lavrov reminded President Lukashenko to respect previous agreements with President Putin and Prime Minister Medvedev. The most important of these relate to the privatization of large Belarusian companies, in particular, Belaruskali (discussed during Medvedev’s visit in July) and MAZ (discussed during Putin’s visit in May).
On the eve of the parliamentary elections, the Belarusian authorities face with extremely high external pressure, in particular in the economy. Suspended naphtha deliveries from Russia could have very negative consequences for the economy and increase the likelihood of authorities’ failure to fulfill their main political promises about the USD 500 average salary by the end of 2012.
In this regard, the government might make a concession with regard to privatization, as it was in autumn 2011. For instance, it might put on sale non-strategic assets, such as shares in the Belarusian mobile operator MTS. If so, privatization of industrial enterprises will be delayed until the last moment.
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.