Minsk gains political weight in the eyes of Kremlin as mediator of Russo-Georgian relations

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April 22, 2016 19:11

The Belarusian authorities are attempting to give new impetus to diplomatic cooperation with Tbilisi in order to expand the "window of opportunity" in their relations with Western capitals, and develop their new capacity of mediator and peacemaker, gained during the Ukrainian foreign policy crisis. The Belarusian authorities also hope to mediate improvement in Russo-Georgian relations and facilitate Georgia’s greater involvement in the post-Soviet integration launched by the Kremlin. President Lukashenka hopes that thanks to his new important international role of a mediator between East and West, the Kremlin and western capitals might refrain from possible pressure on him during the presidential campaign in 2015.

Last week, President Lukashenka paid an official visit to Georgia, where he met with Georgian President Margvelashvili. It was his first ever visit to Georgia since coming to power in 1994. According to some reports, Lukashenka was invited to visit Georgia yet during the presidency of Mikhail Saakashvili, however he had not visited not to provoke a negative reaction from the Kremlin.

During the visit, President Lukashenka said he would like to open a diplomatic representation in Georgia in 2015, which would imply that Minsk was serious about promoting political cooperation with Tbilisi. It should be noted that Belarus and Georgia have modest trade turnover. In 2014, it totalled USD 64.18 million or about 0.1% of the total foreign trade turnover with balance deficit for Belarus. The two countries established diplomatic relations in January 1994.

Following the Russo-Georgian conflict in 2008, contacts between Minsk and Tbilisi have become more frequent. Regardless of the pressure from the Kremlin, Belarus refused to recognise Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent countries, which was highly appreciated by the then Georgian leadership. Some political analysts even talked about the "friendship" between the heads of Belarus and Georgia against the Kremlin. Meanwhile, President Lukashenka has repeatedly explained his refusal to recognize the breakaway republics with pragmatic reasons – that the Kremlin would not reimburse Belarus’ losses from possible sanctions by the West in the case of the recognition. After Saakashvili’s departure from the presidency in 2013, relations between the two countries have somewhat cooled.

During the visit, the Belarusian president once again assured Tbilisi of consistency in his approaches with regard to the recognition issue: “Our position on the issues that you have raised [non-recognition of independence of Georgian territories], remains unchanged. Otherwise, I would not have come”.

It makes sense that the Belarusian authorities anticipate to gain economic benefits from cooperation with Tbilisi by ensuring access for Georgian products to the EEU market. In addition, the Belarusian leadership said it would enlist Georgia’s support in promoting Belarusian goods on European markets. Some experts believe that Belarus has probed her first re-export schemes to the Russian market of goods under the Kremlin’s sanctions with Georgian produces. When tension between Russia and Georgia rose after Mikhail Saakashvili came to power, trade between Belarus and Georgia had increased and peaked in 2011 reaching almost USD 300 million with a large balance deficit for Belarus (USD 237.1 million).

After meetings in Tbilisi, President Lukashenka talked about a possible settlement of Russo-Georgian relations: “We are realists, the [Georgian] president and I, and we have decided to draw a line and look into the future – what steps can be made to normalise relations between Georgia and Belarus, and to go even further, including the Russian Federation”. In the past, President Lukashenka had already attempted to assume the role of a mediator to relief tension in Russian-Georgian relations. In particular, he many times reiterated the idea to start the process of reinstalling Tbilisi in the CIS, from which Georgia divorced in 2008.

If President Lukashenka succeeds in his mission to normalise Russo-Georgian relations, he will strengthen his credibility and importance vis-à-vis the Kremlin. In return, he counts on Tbilisi’s help in normalising relations with Western capitals. 

The Belarusian authorities are attempting to give new impetus to diplomatic cooperation with Tbilisi in order to expand the "window of opportunity" in their relations with Western capitals, and develop their new capacity of mediator and peacemaker, gained during the Ukrainian foreign policy crisis. The Belarusian authorities also hope to mediate improvement in Russo-Georgian relations and facilitate Georgia’s greater involvement in the post-Soviet integration launched by the Kremlin. President Lukashenka hopes that thanks to his new important international role of a mediator between East and West, the Kremlin and western capitals might refrain from possible pressure on him during the presidential campaign in 2015.

Last week, President Lukashenka paid an official visit to Georgia, where he met with Georgian President Margvelashvili. It was his first ever visit to Georgia since coming to power in 1994. According to some reports, Lukashenka was invited to visit Georgia yet during the presidency of Mikhail Saakashvili, however he had not visited not to provoke a negative reaction from the Kremlin.

During the visit, President Lukashenka said he would like to open a diplomatic representation in Georgia in 2015, which would imply that Minsk was serious about promoting political cooperation with Tbilisi. It should be noted that Belarus and Georgia have modest trade turnover. In 2014, it totalled USD 64.18 million or about 0.1% of the total foreign trade turnover with balance deficit for Belarus. The two countries established diplomatic relations in January 1994.

Following the Russo-Georgian conflict in 2008, contacts between Minsk and Tbilisi have become more frequent. Regardless of the pressure from the Kremlin, Belarus refused to recognise Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent countries, which was highly appreciated by the then Georgian leadership. Some political analysts even talked about the "friendship" between the heads of Belarus and Georgia against the Kremlin. Meanwhile, President Lukashenka has repeatedly explained his refusal to recognize the breakaway republics with pragmatic reasons – that the Kremlin would not reimburse Belarus’ losses from possible sanctions by the West in the case of the recognition. After Saakashvili’s departure from the presidency in 2013, relations between the two countries have somewhat cooled.

During the visit, the Belarusian president once again assured Tbilisi of consistency in his approaches with regard to the recognition issue: “Our position on the issues that you have raised [non-recognition of independence of Georgian territories], remains unchanged. Otherwise, I would not have come”.

It makes sense that the Belarusian authorities anticipate to gain economic benefits from cooperation with Tbilisi by ensuring access for Georgian products to the EEU market. In addition, the Belarusian leadership said it would enlist Georgia’s support in promoting Belarusian goods on European markets. Some experts believe that Belarus has probed her first re-export schemes to the Russian market of goods under the Kremlin’s sanctions with Georgian produces. When tension between Russia and Georgia rose after Mikhail Saakashvili came to power, trade between Belarus and Georgia had increased and peaked in 2011 reaching almost USD 300 million with a large balance deficit for Belarus (USD 237.1 million).

After meetings in Tbilisi, President Lukashenka talked about a possible settlement of Russo-Georgian relations: “We are realists, the [Georgian] president and I, and we have decided to draw a line and look into the future – what steps can be made to normalise relations between Georgia and Belarus, and to go even further, including the Russian Federation”. In the past, President Lukashenka had already attempted to assume the role of a mediator to relief tension in Russian-Georgian relations. In particular, he many times reiterated the idea to start the process of reinstalling Tbilisi in the CIS, from which Georgia divorced in 2008.

If President Lukashenka succeeds in his mission to normalise Russo-Georgian relations, he will strengthen his credibility and importance vis-à-vis the Kremlin. In return, he counts on Tbilisi’s help in normalising relations with Western capitals.

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