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.
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.