Lukashenko Brings Back His Old Team
On January, 8 President Alexander Lukashenko appointed Viktor Sheiman President Aide for special instructions. Viktor Sheiman was relieved of the post of the President Aide for special instructions in the State Secretariat of the Security Council.
The comeback of Viktor Sheiman under direct supervision of president Lukashenko can be explained by a number of factors, such as a deficit of trusted personnel, termination of an important project on supplies of oil from Venezuela, and also risk of losing control over law enforcement agencies during the period of the reform.
The appointment of Viktor Sheiman, who is Lukashenko’s longtime supporter and one of the creators of the whole Belarusian system of law enforcement bodies, can be viewed as a promotion. Previously, since 2008 Sheiman had been supervising Belarus-Venezuela relationships and was Chairman of the Bilateral Commission on trade. Also, he was the President Aide for special instructions in the State Secretariat of the Security Council.
The higher status of the President Aide for special instructions “legalizes” his existing high informal status in the system of state governance in Belarus.
The major reason for this appointment is a deficit of trust within the ruling group that has become even sharper after Minsk maneuver to improve relations with the West failed in 2010. Since then, the president’s employment policy has been characterized by attempts to distance the officials involved in that unsuccessful maneuver.
In contrast, the managerial positions which are the most important and closest to the president are occupied by those who are most loyal to Lukashenko (Deputy Prime Ministers Tozik and Kalinin, aides Prokopovich and Sheiman). An unresolved political conflict with the West suggests that the process of personnel rotation in Lukashenko’s surrounding will continue in 2013.
Another reason for bringing Sheiman closer to the President is the end of the project on oil supplies from Venezuela to Belarus. As a curator of this project, Sheiman has successfully performed his task and provided Lukashenko with a foreign trade “alibi” necessary for negotiations with Russia. Therefore, in the President’s view, he well deserves to be promoted.
Finally, Viktor Sheiman, as a creator of the modern Belarusian system of law enforcement agencies, is needed by the President to control the implementation of law enforcement bodies reform.
The scandalous case of the “teddy bears bombing” in summer 2012 and the tragic suicide of a KGB officer demonstrated that president Lukashenko’s eldest son Viktor cannot control law enforcers. On the contrary, his badly planned actions, as well as the actions of his subordinates, threaten the stability of Lukashenko’s regime. It is highly likely that Sheiman has been given an informal task to “restore order” in law enforcement agencies.
President Lukashenka has met with the head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov, who visited Minsk and the Minsk Automobile Plant. Minsk has always sought to have independent links with Russian regional elites, partially, to compensate for the Kremlin's diminishing interest in Belarus. In recent years, Belarus’ contacts with the Russian regions have been extremely intense. However, with some leaders of Russian regions, primarily heads of large republics, communication was more difficult to build. As many analysts in Minsk suggested, Minsk could regard contacts between President Lukashenka and the head of Chechnya as an additional communication channel for relieving tension in relations with the Kremlin. However, most likely, a trusting relationship with Kadyrov is a value for Minsk as such, provided Kadyrov’s broad business and political interests, and a high degree of autonomy for the Chechen leader from the Kremlin.