Most likely trends in 2016 in foreign policy
Minsk officials are likely to continue efforts to increase diplomatic contacts with Western capitals, while maintaining the ‘alliance’ with the Kremlin. The main task of the Foreign Ministry would be to strengthen Belarus’ peacekeeping reputation and her neutral position on the international arena. If tensions between Moscow and NATO members and allies rise, the Belarusian authorities are likely to avoid direct involvement in conflicts on the Russian side.
Nevertheless, amid growing recession in the economies of the EEU partner states and shrinking Russian market, increased number of trade wars between Russia and Belarus should not be ruled out.
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.