Minsk attempts to bolster Belarus’ independence
Minsk continues to attempt to prevent escalation of Russo-Ukrainian power conflict. Simultaneously, the country’s leadership seeks ways to strengthen national security and Belarus’ independence using military, diplomatic and ideological instruments.
On April 8th, at the Security Council meeting, the political situation in Ukraine and its influence on the national security was discussed.
Belarus’ Security Council has concluded that the events in Ukraine “do not bear direct threats” for Belarus. In the near future, Belarus will elaborate an action plan to reverse any indirect threats that another round of destabilisation in Ukraine could bear, i.e. the recent armed attack on administrative buildings in South- East Ukraine with the participation of professional unidentified military men.
Belarus stands for preserving Ukraine’s integrity and is against her federalisation. This was confirmed by the Foreign Ministry last week, as well as by President Lukashenko on April 13th during an interview with the Russian Channel NTV. In the interview, Lukashenko reiterated his opinion about the reasons for the Ukrainian crisis: Yanukovich’s corrupt and irresponsible government, betrayal of the West, and Ukrainian Army’s incapacity. In line with this ‘diagnosis’, Belarus has taken measures to strengthen national security and independence. In particular, the anti-corruption campaign in Belarus has received an additional boost.
Last week, Belarus’ president placed a special emphasis on strengthening the army’s capacity. In particular, on April 2nd, Lukashenko visited the Baranovichi-based aircraft repair plant and ordered the modernisation of Su-27 fighters to be sped up. In the coming weeks, inspections are planned at the Borisov-based armoured vehicles repair and restoration plant. These activities are meant not so much for demonstrating the preparations for repelling military aggression, but for strengthening Belarus’ reputation as a country that does not need external assistance to ensure her safety.
Belarus seeks to become a country which could guarantee regional security on a wide range of issues: drug trafficking, illegal migration (Deputy Foreign Minister Kupchina’s trip to Slovenia and Germany), and strengthening of the Afghan-Tajik border.
Belarusian authorities’ policy aims to strengthen Belarus’ independence, while maintaining allied relations with Russia. However, in order for this policy to achieve at least partial success, stability in the region needs to be preserved. If the Russo-Ukrainian conflict escalates into an open confrontation, Belarus can forget about independence altogether.
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.