Lukashenko gives a chance to his eldest son
On May 27th, President Lukashenko appointed KGB Chairman Valery Vakulchik and his Assistant for National Security Viktor Lukashenko to supervise the Belarusian-Russian Commission on Potash Exports from Belarus’ side.
The deficit of trusted assistants forces President Lukashenko to make appointments in the international trade based on family relation principle. Simultaneously, Lukashenko attempts to legitimize Viktor Lukashenko as supervisor of large Belarusian business and introduces Belarus’ law enforcement bodies to business.
The president’s decision to appoint his eldest son to supervise potash exports is likely explained by his desire to introduce Victor Lukashenko to large international business, which provides important foreign currency inflows to the country. In Q1 2013, potash fertilizers totaled 6.3% of the country’s exports or circa USD 609.6 million.
There are reasons to believe that this was a spontaneous decision, which was taken in the Lukashenko family circle. Previously 37-year-old Viktor Lukashenko was not noticed in the potash business. His interests traditionally related to defense exports and security issues, in particular, he was shaping the personnel policy in the Belarus’ security bodies. According to some reports, in 2008, Viktor Lukashenko advised on the appointments in some structures, for example, in the Operational and Analytical Center (V. Vakulchik) and the State Border Committee (I. Rachkovski).
Moreover, professional career of KGB Chairman Valery Vakulchik shows no evidence of his competence in potash exports. Since 2008 Vakulchik headed three security agencies - Operational and Analytical Center, the Investigative Committee and the KGB - which can be interpreted in two ways: president’s high confidence in him or his professional rootlessness.
Neither Lukashenko, nor Vakulchik have formal responsibilities in the Commission, they have observers’ status. Officially, the Commission is headed by the Development Bank Chairman Rumas. In addition, the president said that the Commission was established by agreement with the Soyzkaly owner Russian oligarch Kerimov, who requested ‘someone very influential’ to supervise the Commission.
Thus, President Lukashenko de facto established Institute of potash business curators, which can be regarded as a ‘lease on life’ for his eldest son. At the same time, Viktor does not have a reputation of a successful businessman, as well, he is a non-public figure, which increases the risks of the project’s possible failure - for example, if the supervisors fail to resolve effectively cooperation disputes between companies Belaruskali and Soyuzkali.
Finally, there are no reasons to consider this appointment a preparation for the presidency succession. The political situation in Belarus objectively forces Alexander Lukashenko to run for the president in 2015 for the fifth time and to ensure his victory. The “successor” option is only possible in case of emergency (incumbent’s illness, etc).
The Belarusian authorities regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.
Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.
Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.
In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.