New Presidential Administration Head Appointment: crisis in administration
Mr. Kobyakov was recalled from ambassadorial position in Russia to occupy the second highest-ranking position in Belarus, implying that loyalty crisis is deteriorating in the President Lukashenko’s surroundings. This appointment also suggests that decision-making in Belarus is becoming less formal, taking place outside formalized institutions, including the Presidential Administration.
On August 27th, President Lukashenko appointed Andrey Kobyakov as Head of the Presidential Administration.
This personnel decision marks, above all, the growing loyalty shortage in the Alexander Lukashenko’s surroundings. And the chaotic career of Andrey Kobiakov illustrates this deficiency and the subsequent personnel policy: Andrei Kobyakov was transferred from the Deputy Prime Minister post to the Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration immediately after the presidential elections in 2010, and in November 2011 he was appointed as Ambassador of Belarus to Russia, and in addition to that in April 2012 he was appointed as Special Representative of Belarus in a number of integration organizations (CES, CIS, CSTO, etc.)
On the one hand, the return of Mr. Kobyakov to head the PA suggests that Alexander Lukashenko considers relations with Russia a priority number one and is not ready to repeat the political game of “rapprochement with the West” carried out in 2008-2010 under the leadership of the former PA head Mr. Makey. On the other hand, the “Russian” background of the new appointee, who was born in Russia, demonstrates a decline in the PA importance in the decision-making. As we have already noted, after 2011, President Lukashenko has been actively forming a new managerial institution, the so-called “Special forces’ Club”, made of loyal heads of security agencies.
Thus, Mr. Kobyakov’s appointment demonstrates that in the near future Belarus will refrain from resuming a political dialogue with the EU and the U.S. and from reforming political and economic systems in compliance with ‘Western’ requirements. However, it is likely that the authorities will try to step up cooperation with international financial funds. Mr. Kobyakov could play a positive role in this, given his professional experience: he was in charge of economic issues in the Government when the IMF Stand-by programme for Belarus started in 2009.
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.