Security: Minsk aims to steer clear of new commitments to Moscow
Last week, a trend has developed, which manifested in Minsk’s desire to preserve close cooperation with Russia in the security field and to demonstrate allegiance to Moscow through participation in symbolic events.
In the current confrontation between the West and Ukraine on one side and Russia on the other side, the latter seeks to demonstrate that she is not isolated and has a wide range of friends and allies through organising symbolic international events. For instance, last week, Russia held three such events: the Second Military Sports Games of the friendly armies of the CIS member states, the International Army Games-2017 and the Commonwealth Warrior competition among the CIS states, held within the Army Games. The Belarusian military took an active part in the events. The Belarusian team ranked third in the military sports games, and for the second time in eight years won the right to hold the Commonwealth Warrior competition. In addition, Alexander Lukashenka greeted the participants of the Army Games on a par with Vladimir Putin.
Belarus’ participation in such Russian image-making events aims to demonstrate her readiness to cooperate with the Kremlin on security issues and to relax tension in bilateral political relations. Moreover, Minsk thereby has partially ‘compensated’ for its reluctance to side with Russia in the confrontation with the West and for developing Sino-Belarusian cooperation. That said, China is regarded by Moscow as a rival for influence in the post-Soviet space.
Conventionally, Russia is extremely sensitive to both, security issues and her image as an influential global player. Hence, Minsk is likely to retain high interest in preserving close cooperation in the security field with Russia and would publicly demonstrate its loyalty to Moscow. That said, Belarus would attempt to steer clear of assuming additional commitments to the Kremlin in this field. Such a trend has long been a corner stone in the Belarusian security policy. Hence, this is a stable trend which is likely to persist in future.
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.