Impulses of Georgian vector of Belarusian policy

 

The calculations of geopolitical strategists in Minsk, which suggested that the Belarusian-Georgian relations will receive a new impetus after Lukashenka`s visit to Tbilisi last year seem to come true.

 

 

 

The recent official visit of Foreign Minister of Belarus, Vladimir Makei, to Tbilisi is intended to be such an impetus. Until now, Georgia had been the only country in the South Caucasus, where Belarus did not have a diplomatic mission. It is probably not a coincidence that the official ceremony of opening the mission occurred during the visit of Belarusian Foreign Minister.

It enabled the guest from Minsk to hold a series of private meetings with almost all the Georgian leadership, and even with the Primate of the Georgian Orthodox Church. He is the only one of all the Orthodox patriarchs, bearing the title of Catholicos. And, perhaps, having a much greater weight in the life of his country than some other Orthodox hierarchs in their nations.

Observers also noted that during his trip, Vladimir Makei attended the memorial on Heroes' Square to honor those who died for the territorial integrity of Georgia, and visited one of the villages on the border with South Ossetia, a Russian protectorate.

 

Moscow's reaction

Such accents of Belarusian multidirectional policy could not remain without attention of Moscow. However, after the departure of Saakashvili from power, the Kremlin has a cool attention to the Belarusian-Georgian relations, which, in contrast to the Georgian-Russian relations, are not overshadowed by visa regime.

One can only guess how Moscow reacts to the fact that, despite Georgia's official withdrawal from the CIS, it has continued to operate a visa-free regime with Belarus. The leaders of the two countries quietly updated and quickly signed the relevant documents.

But Alexander Lukashenka's visit to Tbilisi in April 2015 received international attention because of his support expressed publicly in respect of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as part of Georgia. This unity of views was recorded in a joint statement of the heads of Georgia and Belarus on the results of the official visit of Lukashenka.

According to some reports, Moscow's reaction went to Minsk only behind the scenes, through diplomatic channels. But the Abkhaz Foreign Ministry recalled in its statement that “the so-called territorial integrity of Georgia in the format in which it is seen in Georgia, simply does not exist since 1993.” Yet according to the joint statement of the Presidents of Georgia and Belarus, this format is still accepted by Minsk.

As known, even after the five-day war in August 2008 between Russia and Georgia, Belarus and Georgia maintained diplomatic relations. It would hardly be possible had Belarus recognized the separatist regimes in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. But this did not affect the long-term work of the Georgian Embassy in Minsk.

However, the pause with the opening of the Belarusian Embassy in Tbilisi delayed quite long; it was publicly acknowledged at the ceremony by Foreign Minister Makey. It may be noted that this is a rare recognition by Belarus of its own mistakes. After all, it is clear, for whom the Foreign Minister of Belarus apologized.

 

Cooperation of intelligence services

Makey`s recent visit to Tbilisi was an important but not the only new momentum in Georgian vector of the Belarusian policy. Some previous impulses could also be recalled. In particular, the trip of KGB Chairman General Valery Vakulchik to Georgia last August became the first visit of its kind.

It may be a coincidence that in the end of August, the head of the Belarusian diplomatic mission Mikhail Myatlikov handed his credentials to the Georgian Foreign Minister. As far as is known, an agreement on cooperation was concluded between the Belarusian secret service and Georgian security service.

State media and the KGB did not then cover this interesting event. According to certain Georgian sources, the security services of the two countries to cooperate in the fight against terrorism, corruption, international crime and combat crimes against state security.

Given the current state of affairs in the world, such intentions of special services are understandable, despite the Euro-Atlantic path of Georgia and Eurasian integration of Belarus. At the same time, it remains unclear how Tbilisi will respond to the statement of the Border Service of Belarus on intentions to resolve the issue of the visa regime with Georgia in the framework of the Customs Union and the so-called Union State. In order to avoid problems with the Russian side.

Earlier, the Belarusian citizens were forbidden to visit South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Whether this topic was touched upon during the historical visits of the chiefs of Belarusian KGB and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to Tbilisi is not known. But it is known that the representatives of Minsk, including the Foreign Minister repeatedly stated and rang bells about the growing activity of NATO on the border of the Union State. Here it would be appropriate to recall the attitude of the Georgians towards NATO.

One can remember that more than 70% of the voters voted for Georgia's membership in NATO during the national referendum. And no one in the world questioned the results. According to officials in Brussels, Georgia possesses today all the tools for entry into NATO. An enhanced Georgia - NATO cooperation package was successfully implemented. Georgia`s meeting NATO standards from a military point of view is also recognized.

As known, for the Belarusian government, which is in close military alliance with Russia, such standards are simply unacceptable. And NATO on its borders seems a real threat. Or as officials in Minsk try to formulate softer – danger and challenges. But such philological delights do not change the attitude of Belarus to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

 

Secret talks in Minsk

Secret diplomacy of Minsk, which was manifested during Vladimir Makey`s trip to Tbilisi forces us to pay attention to another event with a Georgian accent. At this time in Minsk.

No sooner had Mackay returned home, as the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Energy of Georgia Kakha Kaladze held a meeting on December 23 in Minsk with representatives of Russian energy companies - Gazprom and Inter RAO.

According to the Georgian Ministry of Energy, the meetings took place within the framework of existing agreements, as well as within the framework annual negotiations. Georgia`s agreement with Gazprom export is valid until the end of 2016 and relates to the transportation of natural gas to Armenia via Georgia.

The recent meeting between Kaladze and the representatives of Gazprom and Inter RAO took place on December 13-14, 2016. The parties failed to reach an agreement on a new gas transit contract.

Kaladze calls the negotiations with the Russian energy company “standard”. After the last meeting, he said that the Gazprom representatives, as in the previous year, offered to move to financial compensation instead of gas supply for transit. According to Kaladze, the proposal is “unacceptable” for Tbilisi.

The Ministry does not provide other information about the negotiations. The content of the meeting is not known.

Georgia stopped buying Russian gas in 2007. Currently, Tbilisi receives, as payment, 10% of the total volume of transit of Russian gas supplies to Armenia through Georgian territory.

In 2016, the extension of the contract was delayed until April due to the fact that Gazprom insisted on paying money, not gas, as payment. As a result, after the negotiations, Azerbaijan, the main gas supplier of Georgia agreed to increase the volume of deliveries in early March 2016. But Russia's proposal was not accepted.

As it appears, on the background of the current gas problems of Belarus with Russia, the secret talks of Georgia with Gazprom representatives in Minsk may well give another impetus to the Georgian vector of Belarusian geostrategists. Especially with the current interesting and pragmatic relations Belarus is having with Azerbaijan and Armenia. It looks that a new “Minsk platform” with Belarusian peacemakers and mediators is emerging.

 

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