June 19 – June 25, 2017

Minsk requires new “commodity” for bargaining with West

The situation has not changed
Minsk requires new “commodity” for bargaining with West

It becomes increasingly difficult for Minsk to use regional security issues as a trade-off in negotiations with both, the West and Moscow. Circumstances are prompting the Belarusian authorities to change the main subject in the dialogue with the EU and the US.

Over the past three years, Minsk has successfully used its detachment from the Moscow’s aggressive policy in political negotiations with the West. However, the situation is changing and the EU, the US and Ukraine want concrete steps from the Belarusian authorities, rather than assurances.

Harsh statements by the Ukrainian Ambassador to Belarus regarding the West-2017 Russo-Belarusian military exercise and the Slavic Brotherhood Russo-Serbian-Belarusian exercise represent not only the Kyiv’s stance but also the EU and the US expectations. They want concrete steps from Minsk, which would demonstrate its openness and bona fides in respect of regional security matters, as soon as possible. For instance, European states have warned the Belarusian authorities against the participation of the Russian units, which took part in events in Ukraine or were deployed in the occupied territories, in the July 3rd parade in Minsk. NATO (and Ukraine) expect full transparency of the West-2017 exercise. Certainly, it is up to the Belarusian authorities to decide, however a poor decision would unequivocally lead to political consequences.

That said, by making advances to the West, Minsk could prompt a tough response in Moscow, relations with which have tangled over the past three years. Simultaneously, regional security issues have been Belarus’ bargaining chip in negotiations with both, the Kremlin and the West. The difference is that security issues are among the most important for the West, while for the Kremlin they have the outmost importance.

‘Security trading’ is coming to an end for Minsk. The West and Ukraine expect Belarus to take action, which could provoke a new crisis in Russo-Belarusian relations. In the given circumstances, the Belarusian authorities require a new “commodity” for bargaining with the West. For instance, an equivalent replacement could be the limited liberalisation of the political regime in Belarus, improvement of the environment for the independent media, NGOs and political opposition. The scope of such liberalization would be very limited, only to permit Minsk to continue the dialogue with the West for some time.

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Once a week, in coordination with a group of prominent Belarusian analysts, we provide analytical commentaries on the most topical and relevant issues, including the behind-the-scenes processes occurring in Belarus. These commentaries are available in Belarusian, Russian, and English.

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