Minsk seeks to balance out Russia and the West with China

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The Belarusian authorities aim to create the impression they have informal security guarantees from China vis-à-vis their regional counterparts, even if they do not particularly have such guarantees. In addition, they seek to introduce some competition for the right to cooperate with Belarus.

On July 3rd, 2018, Belarus held a traditional military parade to celebrate Independence Day. For the first time, soldiers of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army participated in the parade, along with Russian servicemen. Formally, China was invited for her participation in the coalition against the Axis states during the Second World War. However, Lukashenka revealed the real reason when he called  Russia a fraternal and China a strategic partner. Listed alphabetically, the Chinese ceremonial squad marched in front of the Russian one. Given that Belarus could apply a different organisational order for foreign troops, she must have implied a symbolic gesture towards Beijing.

In addition to the desire to develop relations with China, Belarus invited Chinese servicemen to participate in the July 3rd parade also to send a message to the West and Russia, that they were not the only geopolitical landmarks for Minsk. Should the West and the Kremlin were not ready for relations acceptable for the Belarusian authorities, China, supposedly, would be the alternative based on the interest and guarantees from Beijing. The fact that Sino-Belarusian relations are more advanced in the security sphere, should confirm Chinese interests and guarantees. Meanwhile, due to numerous reasons, Minsk is not an appealing partner to the West. The West’s main concern as regards Minsk is that it should not become yet another challenge or a threat in Europe.

The West has shown interest in Sino-Belarusian cooperation, rather than concern. Meanwhile, Russia has expressed overwrought angst about the Chinese penetration in the post-Soviet space, which she considers her privileged zone of influence. In addition, she regards security matters as the most important lever in securing such influence. Moscow is likely to make efforts to put spikes in the wheels of Sino-Belarusian security cooperation in the near future.

Previously in: Security issues

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