Staff shifts in the Belarusian Foreign Ministry
Government’s Regulation No 142 of March 4th, 2013 changed the leadership in several bilateral commissions in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Belarus’ staffing policy in the Foreign Ministry aims at alienating those responsible for negotiations with the West in 2008 - 2010. New personas will be in the focus of the new round of negotiations: Deputy Foreign Ministers Sergei Guryanov and Elena Kupchina.
The Belarusian Foreign Ministry’s increased activity, marked earlier, is complemented by the changes in the negotiating groups. Government Regulation No 142 appointed Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Guryanov in charge of the American and Latino-American policy (in particular through the Belarusian-American Committee for Business Development and similar committees for Argentina, Ecuador and Cuba).
Formally, Mr. Guryanov did not participate in the ‘liberalization’ project in 2008-2010. Since early 2006 to October 2010 he worked as Belarusian Ambassador in Korea and was appointed Deputy Minister in February 2011, shortly after the December 19th, 2010 events. However, Guryanov is not an alien official to the Belarus’ European foreign policy. In the mid 90’s, he was a stagier at the UNDP and the World Bank’s Economics Institute in Warsaw, as well as at the Joint Vienna Institute.
Simultaneously, Deputy Foreign Minister Valentin Rybakov, who in 2003-2005 worked as Belarus’ Minister-Counsellor in the United States, and in 2006 – 2013 was President’s Aide for International Affairs, as of March 2013 was appointed in charge of the Middle East and South-East Asia, which should be regarded as ebbing of his influence.
Finally, new Deputy Foreign Minister Elena Kupchina on March 6th held regular meetings with foreign partners: the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, and the French Ambassador to Belarus M. Raineri. In 2006 – 2012 Mrs. Kupchina worked as Belarus’ Ambassador in Hungary and Slovenia (from 2008), and in May 2012 she was appointed Deputy Foreign Minister.
Current staff shifts in the Foreign Ministry confirm our previous hypothesis about President Lukashenko’s sinking confidence of the “Vladimir Makey’s group”, which led the rapprochement between Belarus and the EU and the U.S. in 2008-2010. However, the resumption of a dialogue between Minsk and the West persists, and the Foreign Ministry’s high activity in the European arena proves it. And the existence of the political prisoners remains the major constraining factor, holding back the dialogue.
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.