The Kremlin’s pressure on President Alexander Lukashenko is growing
President of Belarus A. Lukashenko and President of Russia V. Putin played ice hockey in the Olympic palace in Sochi. This is already the second meeting of the heads of states within less than a month, which is determined by the intensified pressure from Moscow to establish the Eurasian Economic Union.
This is confirmed by the demand of Russian Prime Minister D. Medvedev, which followed the meeting of the presidents, to agree upon the draft treaty on the Eurasian Economic Union by April 17, 2014. The Kremlin is still taking advantage of the weakening of the Belarusian state and strengthening its presence in Belarus in exchange for short-term preferences offered to official Minsk. This year Russia’s presence in the Belarusian economy will be reinforced by privatization of some of the state assets by Russian companies.
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.