Presidents team grows younger
On June 10th, President Lukashenko appointed Kirill Rudy his Assistant for economic issues.
So-called ‘Eurasian’ group forms in the Belarus’ Presidential Administration. This implies Eurasian priority in the Belarus’ foreign policy as well as confirms Lukashenko’s desire to preserve the state’s role in the economy following examples of Kazakhstan and China. In addition, the President consistently rejuvenates his team.
35-year-old Cyril Rudy, appointed Assistant to the President for Economic Affairs, had a successful academic career: he got his PhD at 23 and studied in the U.S. on Fulbright Programme’s scholarship. He started working in the public service, served as Adviser on Economic Issues at the Belarusian Embassy in China and was one of the Sino-Belarusian Industrial Park Project developers. Immediately prior to becoming the Presidential Aide, Rudy was Deputy Director at the Huawei Belarusian Office (Chinese company).
Note, that in February, Lukashenko appointed former Belarusian Ambassador to Kazakhstan Valery Brylev his Assistant, which allows for a logical conclusion that Alexander Lukashenko is interested in using Kazakh modernization experience (high degree of state participation and control) and Chinese (in building up effective economic relations between the state and businesses) more actively.
The context of these appointments is even broader. On June 3rd – 7th, Head of Presidential Administration Andrei Kobyakov visited China, where he held meetings with Communist Party and business representatives to discuss development of bilateral projects in the Sino-Belarusian Industrial Park framework. So-called ‘China lobby’ in Belarus is also supported by Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Tozik, who was Belarus’ Ambassador to China in 2006-2010.
In addition, President’s team grows younger. Apart from Mr. Rudy, the group of ‘young’ presidential aides includes Maxim Rizhenkov (40 y.o., in charge of sport), Natalia Piatkevich (40, in charge of the media), Vsevolod Yanchevsky (37, in charge of the state ideology) and President’s eldest son Viktor Lukashenko (37, in charge of national security, and more recently – potash trade).
Simultaneously, there is no reason to say there is harmony among Presidential Aides, that they are all led by, for example, Viktor Lukashenko. Currently, age is the main unifying factor in this group, unlike common interests.
It should also be borne in mind that conventionally incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko perceives any stable group of officials as a threat to his power and manages them accordingly. In turn, the upcoming presidential elections reduce the likelihood of new resistance pressure groups formations in Belarus.
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.