From 2014 into 2015: an attempt to avoid the regional crisis via administrative measures
Development of the political and economic situation in Belarus in 2014 and a forecast for 2015
Socio-economic processes in Belarus in 2014 were shaped by a serious regional crisis triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as well as the Belarusian authorities’ preparations for the re-election of Aleksandr Lukashenko. These events strengthened Lukashenko’s position in the eyes of the Belarusian population, but led to further disbalances in the Belarusian economy. As a result, Belarus is entering 2015 with a major currency crisis and a significant turnover in government members. The change in government was partially due to the ageing state apparatus, however, the more youthful staff will not be able to change the principles of government, at least until the presidential election is over.
Most important trends in 2014:
- Lukashenko’s popularity continued to rise despite the fall in real incomes;
- The Belarusian government maintained a careful balancing act between Russian, Ukraine, and the EU;
- Economic potential was lost in an attempt to wait out the crisis;
- The Belarusian government attempted to distance Belarus from the regional economic crisis, mainly via administrative and managerial decisions;
- High level of demand for change in Belarusian society persisted.
Main threats in 2015:
- Tensions and protest moods in society will rise due to falling living standards and a lack of adequate solutions to the currency-financial crisis, which is likely to worsen;
- Trade conflicts with Russia and informational aggression from the Kremlin against the Belarusian leadership will be more likely.
Most likely trends for 2015:
- The economic recession will continue;
- Real incomes and social benefits will continue to fall;
- Attempts to curb the economic crisis using administrative measures will continue, but the most important economic decisions will be taken in 2015 (devaluation is expected at the start of the year)
- Conditions for political activity will remain repressive;
- Relations with the Kremlin will bear a conflicting character, particularly in the media sphere, but this will not prevent Belarus from participating in Russia’s integration projects, nor receiving financial aid from Russia;
- Relations with the West will improve to some extent.
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.