Tension grows between Minsk and Kremlin over economic issues
Last week, with a reference to a high ranking source in the Russian Energy industry, Reuters reported that Russian oil supplies to Belarus were cut by about 40% not due to economic, but political reasons, in particular, due to rapprochement between Minsk and the West. Earlier, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dvorkovich explained the possible reduction in oil supplies by overdue payments by Minsk for the supplied Russian gas. Yet the Belarusian government has not publicly responded to such significant cuts in oil supplies, regardless of possible substantial budgetary losses. It is worth noting that tension is growing between Belarus and Russia over economic issues. Along with the cuts in oil supply, tension is growing in the gas sector and dairy supplies. Economic tensions between Belarus and Russia are likely to be due to the redistribution of resources amid reduced subsidies from Russia and restrictions on Belarusian products on the Russian market.
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.