August 15 – August 21, 2022
Belarus-West relations

The Lukashenka regime says it hears overtures from the West but prefers to negotiate from a position of strength

The situation has not changed

The Belarusian regime is testing the ground for a return to pragmatic economic cooperation with the West. On the one hand, they are betting on the fatigue of Western countries due to the sanctions policy’s “ricochet effect” in Europe. On the other hand, Minsk is again toying with international security issues, non-participation in the war against Ukraine and a geopolitical turn towards the “far arc”.

The Belarusian authorities again raised the topic of returning to pragmatic cooperation with Western countries. Allegedly, despite sanctions, the West is increasingly signalling a desire to work with Belarus. In six months, Belarus’ exports to “unfriendly countries” amounted to USD 3.5 billion, compared to USD 17 billion previously accounted for by these states. Minsk expects that Western sanctions will eventually blow back on Europe, including by provoking an energy crisis, and that this will lead to the return of pragmatic cooperation.

Prime Minister Raman Halouchanka believes that the most challenging times for Belarusian exports have already passed. He expects that by the end of the year, there will be a record surplus, which is also associated with a reduction in imports. The replacement of the exports to the EU is quite advanced as it is redirected towards the Russian Federation and the countries of the “far arc”, primarily Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.

However, India faces logistical and payment problems due to Western sanctions when purchasing potash fertilisers from Belarus, which accounts for half of the Indian-Belarusian trade. Previously, potash fertilisers went to India through Klaipeda, but Belarus has not yet found an adequate replacement for this route.

Meanwhile, the Belarusian regime tried to signal to the West from a position of strength. Belarusian Defence Minister Viktar Khrenin, speaking at the X Moscow Conference on International Security, gave a new justification for Minsk’s support for Russian aggression against Ukraine. According to him, this was a preventive reaction to the military threat from the West. However, Lukashenka later clarified that he did not plan to attack Ukraine or bomb it from Belarusian territory, repeating Russian propaganda narratives and accusing NATO and the United States of war with Russia.

Belarus’ Permanent Representative to the UN, Valentin Rybakov, conveyed to the Secretary-General, António Guterres, Minsk’s position that the Report of the Working Group of the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to investigate the incident related to the landing of the Ryanair aircraft in Belarus on May 23, 2021, was politically biased and unacceptable. In addition, international food security and sanctions were discussed. Belarus can also withdraw from the treaty on filing complaints to the UN about human rights violations.

However, the West sees no reason to change policy towards Minsk. The determining factors of Washington’s position are still the participation of the Lukashenka regime in Russia’s military aggression and violation of human rights, where no positive change is foreseen shortly.

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Once a week, in coordination with a group of leading Belarusian analysts, we provide analytical commentaries to the most topical and relevant issues, including on behind the scenes processes ongoing in Belarus, in Russian and English.

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