Minsk enlisted support from Baku in case of pressure from Kremlin
While meeting in a narrow format, Presidents of Belarus and Azerbaijan, Lukashenka and Aliyev, have agreed to develop cooperation from military-industrial to petrochemical sphere. It is worth noting that the Belarusian and Azeri leaders have a relationship of trust, and the Belarusian-Azerbaijani trade turnover has been preserved at the same level, while it has fallen with other countries. In addition, President Ilham Aliyev had repeatedly rescued President Alexander Lukashenka by providing ‘bailout’ loans when relations with the Kremlin deteriorated (2010) and during the financial and economic crisis (2011). Baku also assisted Minsk with Venezuelan oil supplies to Belarus on swap - contracts. Perhaps, Minsk is once again attempting to ensure support from Baku, including financial, just in case the Kremlin starts insisting on the deployment of the Russian air base in Belarus.
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.