Amid Ukrainian crisis, Belarusians become less demanding vis-a-vis authorities
Despite the fact that the average level of wages has fallen in the country, Belarusians feel more satisfied with their living standards and have increased their support of Lukashenko, says a September poll carried out by IISEPS. The Belarusian socio-economic model is stagnating, however, and the Ukrainian factor has a decisive influence on Belarusians’ preferences. They support having a strong leader and a strong state and believe Belarus should have a special development path, one that is not associated with integration with the EU or Russia. The number of those ready to defend their country with arms in the event of military aggression from Russia has increased dramatically - from 14.2% in June to 25.9% in September. 26% of Belarusians are ready to stand armed against aggression from the NATO. Amid the conflict in Ukraine, in the short-term, lower living standards would not influence the government’s approval ratings and President Lukashenko will be portrayed as the sole guarantor of political stability in the country.
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.