Minsk fears interference of Warsaw with Belarus-EU normalization
Official Minsk anticipates that positive trends in Belarusian-Polish relations may curtail. However, the Belarusian authorities hope that Warsaw will not block the normalization of Belarusian-European relations. Otherwise, Minsk would launch a usual anti-Polish campaign in the media and would put pressure on unregistered Polish minority organisations in Belarus.
Last week, President Lukashenka congratulated Andrzej Duda on his election as President of Poland. Duda’s election as Polish President has struck a warning note for the Belarusian authorities. Even thought the Belarusian authorities hope that Poland would continue to support the EU policy of normalizing relations with Belarus, they are nevertheless ready for some cooling in Belarusian-Polish relations.
In addition, Belarus believes that Poland will be somewhat restrained by the general European trend toward normalization of Belarusian-European relations. Ideally, Belarus would like to formulate a relatively neutral bilateral agenda with Poland, which would focus on cross-border and pragmatic economic cooperation.
The newly elected Polish president is known for his tough rhetoric vis-à-vis Russia, Belarus therefore hopes that he will take into account its "balanced" position on Russian-Ukrainian relations. The authorities also emphasize the potential threat to the independence of Belarus, which, they believe, could become an important lever to influence new Polish leadership. Belarus would do her best to position itself as a deterrent to the Kremlin’s aggressive policy.
The Belarusian opposition, in general, has positively assessed Duda’s election. They hope that Warsaw will strengthen its principled position vis-à-vis the Belarusian authorities and will increase support for civil society. For instance, some representatives of the academic community are looking forward to Warsaw’s assistance in founding the Belarusian National University.
In addition, it is quite likely that the Belarusian authorities may strengthen their ‘anti-Polish rhetoric’ and resume repressions against members of the unregistered Union of Poles – which they conventionally do ahead of presidential elections in Belarus.
All in all, the Belarusian authorities reckon that new Polish President Andrzej Duda would not seriously exacerbate relations between Minsk and Warsaw, and would allow some criticism of the situation inside 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.