President Lukashenko visits Qatar, Prime Minister Myasnikovich goes to Moscow
On 15 August President Lukashenko paid an official visit to Qatar and Prime Minister Myasnikovich met with Putin at a meeting of the Council of Ministers of the Union State in Moscow.
President Lukashenko has gradually transferred the right to negotiate with the key Belarusian partner, the Kremlin, to Prime Minister Myasnikovich. Nevertheless principal political and economic decisions are still made by the President.
Firstly, the visit of President Lukashenko to Qatar meant to improve his image. The president had to expand the geography of his visits, which, after 19 December elections has been particularly narrow. There were no principal agreements reached in Qatar, the parties have signed a number of minor bilateral agreements and made a number of limited declarations of intent with regard to investment.
Secondly, the president needed to compensate for the political effect of the meeting between Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Myasnikovich in Moscow. Russia is a key economic and political partner of Belarus, and trustworthy relationship with the Russian leadership has always been the key for retaining of power by Lukashenko. Given that during the past year the Belarusian President does not enjoy the same level of confidence from the side of Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev, the role of a negotiator has been transferred to Prime Myasnikovich, who thereby increases his political influence.
For President Lukashenko it is important to “blend” the increasing role of Prime Minister Myasnikovich, therefore he uses his international visits (to keep up appearances) and takes full control over the process of privatization. A conference held on 12 July on Customs Union and Common Economic Space showed the Prime Myasnikovich has no control over Russian-Belarusian talks concerning privatization of Belarusian assets. Back then the Prime Minister listed 12 companies negotiations on the sale of which allegedly took place with Russian counterparts, however later the information was denied by Russia. Also, on 18 August General Director of "Belaruskali” announced the unacceptability of loan conditions set by a Russian bank Sberbank and a German bank “Deutsche Bank” with regard to the loan that has been preliminary agreed.
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.