Lukashenko proposes Vatican to mediate Belarus-EU dialogue
On April 9, President Lukashenko met with Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of the Order of Malta, Paul Friedrich von Furherrom and on April 10 he met with the Apostolic Nuncio in the Republic of Belarus Claudio Gugerotti. During both meetings, the President noted that the Holy See could play a mediator role in the relations between Belarus and the Western European countries.
Lukashenko’s attempt to engage the Vatican in the negotiation process between Minsk and Brussels, first of all, implies the unwillingness of the Belarusian regime to fulfill the EU preconditions for normalization of relations. Therefore, the authorities propose to shift the Belarus-EU interstate dialogue to a new, inter-church level.
Secondly, Lukashenko made an allusion to a possible visit of the Pope to Belarus, which gives away a messianic desire of the Belarusian authorities to play a key role in the Eastern European region. If true, for instance, Belarus will be able to organize a historic meeting of representatives of the Catholic and the Orthodox churches in the country.
President Lukashenko has more than once talked about his desire to carry out such a civilizing mission and, apparently, did not part with this idea.
However, due to the low level of trust in the relations between the Belarusian government and the Catholic Church, as well as between the leadership of the neighboring countries, Russia and Poland in particular, this scenario is hardly probable. Therefore, the proposal made to the Holy See to mediate the Minsk-Brussels relations primarily demonstrates acute policy deficiency in the Presidential Administration.
Lukashenko’s milieu considers the Catholic Church as an alibi, which Minsk needs in the given circumstances to manipulate the political demands of the EU. In the best case scenario, the process of restoring the trust between the Vatican and Moscow will be mediated by Belarus. Such disproportionate geopolitical ambitions are rather common for Lukashenko’s policy, but in this particular case, they imply that in the confrontation with the West, the resources of Belarus are almost exhausted.
Over the past year, military-political relations between Minsk and Kyiv have become complicated. Due to their high inertia and peculiarities, this downward trend would be extremely difficult to overcome.
The root cause of the crisis is the absence of a common political agenda in the Belarusian-Ukrainian relations. Minsk is looking for a market for Belarusian exports in Ukraine and offers its services as a negotiation platform for the settlement of the Russo-Ukrainian war, thereby hoping to avoid political issues in the dialogue with Kiev. Meanwhile, Ukraine is hoping for political support from Minsk in the confrontation with Moscow. In addition, Ukraine’s integration with NATO presupposes her common position with the Alliance in relation to Belarus. The NATO leadership regards the Belarusian Armed Forces as an integral part of the Russian military machine in the western strategic front (the Baltic states and Poland). In addition, the ongoing military reform in Ukraine envisages a reduction in the number of generals and the domestic political struggle makes some Ukrainian top military leaders targets in politically motivated attacks.
Hence, the criticism of Belarus coming from Ukrainian military leadership is dictated primarily by internal and external political considerations, as well as by the need to protect the interests of generals, and only then by facts.
For instance, initially, the Ukrainian military leadership made statements about 100,000 Russian servicemen allegedly taking part in the Russo-Belarusian military drill West-2017. Then the exercises were labelled quazi-open and military observers from Ukraine refused to provide their assessment, which caused a negative reaction in Minsk. Further, without citing specific facts, it was stated that Russia was building up its military presence in Belarus.
Apparently, the Belarusian and Ukrainian Defence Ministries have entangled in a confrontational spiral (on the level of rhetoric). Moreover, only a small part of the overly hidden process has been disclosed. That said, third states are very likely to take advantage of the situation (or have already done so). This is not only about Russia.
The Belarusian Defence Ministry officials are restrained in assessing their Ukrainian counterparts. However, such a restraint is not enough. Current military-political relations between Belarus and Ukraine are unlikely to stabilise without the intervention of both presidents.