Kremlin will insist on deploying Russian air base in Belarus after presidential elections
In an interview with TASS, Belarusian Defence Minister Lieutenant-General Ravkov said that the time and place for the deployment of the Russian air base in Belarus would be decided on a political level. Earlier, in October 2014, Russian Air Force Commander Colonel General Bondarev said that Russia planned to set up an airbase with Su-27s in Bobruisk in 2016. The lack of clarity around the Russian airbase deployment in Belarus implies that the Belarusian authorities are cautious about increasing Russia’s military presence in Belarus after the Russian annexation of Crimea and bloody events in the east of Ukraine with alleged involvement of Russian troops. The Belarusian authorities are likely to delay the airbase deployment for as much as they can, however the pressure from the Kremlin and promises of financial aid might speed up this process.
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.