Political situation: the most notable trends in 2014
In 2014, the most notable trends in 2014 in Belarusian politics were:
- Electoral support for President Lukashenko rose amid a fall in real incomes and a high level of demand for change within Belarusian society persisted;
- Belarusian society were deeply divided over the events in Ukraine and attitudes among supporters and opponents of the incumbent president were polarised;
- The government paid more attention to public safety, for example, by strengthening the roles of law enforcement agencies and intelligence services in public administration;
- The authorities tentatively distanced themselves from the “Russian World” and initiated nation-building, inter alia, by incorporating some values of their opponents in the state paradigm;
- Minsk grew in importance through its attempts to ensure regional security and to preserve a balanced position in the Russo-Ukrainian confrontation;
- Contacts with Western capitals were more frequent as Belarus sought to normalise relations on her own terms;
- Belarus became more engaged in Eurasian integration and more dependent on the Kremlin.
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.