Appearance of “state-driven” rumours speaks about authorities’ weakness
The spreading of such rumors shows both the existence within the authorities of the opposing fractions and the desire of the authorities to assess in such a way the reaction of the foreign partners and of the Belarusian society to the extremely controversial government decisions. In general, similar rumors speak about the weakening of discipline within the state apparatus.
On 12 December the information appeared in the media that a Russian aviation base could be established in Belarus. On 13 December the press-service of the MFA rejected the rumors about issuing 650 000 working visas to the Chinese citizens.
The rumor about the possible appearance of the air base in the Republic of Belarus in response to the activation of the NATO forces in the Baltic States was spread by the site "Belarusian military-political review," which is supported by the people from the law enforcement structures of Belarus. The information was published with a reference to an anonymous source in the Ministry of Defense on the next day after the meeting on the Council of Defense Ministers of the CIS held in Moscow. Earlier former presidential candidate Y. Romanchuk spread the information making reference to the well-informed source that the Belarusian authorities have issued already 650,000 working visas for Chinese citizens for the year 2013.
It is very likely that both rumors are the test of the reaction of the stakeholders, both abroad and in Belarus, on the extremely controversial, but necessary decisions of the ruling group. The continuation of integration with Russia and the development of the business relations between Minsk and Beijing eventually would lead also to the questions on the closer military cooperation and labor migration from China.
It is obvious that these decisions are contradicting the interests of various groups inside the government. In particular, it is assumed that the conventional group of the new Foreign Minister Mackei seeks to renew the relations with the EU and the U.S., and therefore is not interested in activating the military cooperation with Russia or in business cooperation with China. And on reverse, the conventional "group of Lukashenko’s family" after December 19, 2010 seeks to extract the maximum profit from the eastern policy of Belarus (Russia, China).
Nevertheless, the use of the rumors by the both conventional groups points out the general weakening of the discipline inside the apparatus of power and confirms the assessment of the crisis of the system of the state administration. In this situation it will be more complicated for President Lukashenko to carry out the necessary decisions because his subordinates will try to wriggle out the responsibility.
In particular, the recently issued Decree № 9 was very poorly supported by the state media and by the state officials, especially in the relevant field related establishments. Besides, the external players if necessary could use the rumors injected into the information space to deteriorate the political situation, for example, during the next presidential campaign.
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.