Viktor Lukashenko’s informal leadership in Security Council strengthens
Appointment of Mezhuev as Security Council State Secretary implies that the agency and its leader have lost their footing in the Belarusian power hierarchy. The real authority to coordinate the law enforcement agencies has been assigned to President’s Assistant for National Security Viktor Lukashenko. If the socio-economic situation deteriorates, State Secretary Mezhuev might be held responsible for security lapses. In addition, Mezhuev’s appointment will not prevent budget cuts for power structures.
President Lukashenko has appointed Alexander Mezhuev as Security Council State Secretary.
Mezhuev is not from the president’s inner circle, which points to a revision in staffing policy. A one-month delay with the appointment could be due to difficulties in identifying the most suitable person for this position, and also linked to the review of mechanisms how influence is distributed inside the Security Council.
Prior to his appointment as the State Secretary, Mezhuev chaired the Parliamentary Commission for National Security. The Belarusian Parliament is regarded as the ‘staff reserve’ before deserved retirement. Thus, the MP’s appointment to lead the Security Council implies a significant reduction in the State Secretary’s functions and influence.
During his career, Mezhuev has played supporting roles in the Defence Ministry; he has little influence and few connections in any power structure. Moreover, he is not planning to lobby interests of the military – he said that “it is important to eliminate the ‘pain spots’ promptly and in time, especially in the sphere of housing and communal services, residential construction, job creation and so on”.
The president has a small pool of trusted persons from which he plucks senior managers for power structures. Until now, all Security Council State Secretaries have proved their loyalty to president Lukashenko either since his first presidential campaign or during their service in the president’s security agency. The president zealously watches over the personnel policy in power structures and over the balance between the various law enforcement agencies.
In 2007, President’s Assistant for National Security – Viktor Lukashenko – was incorporated in the Security Council’s structure. His functions in the SC are not clear, but with the current appointment as State Secretary of a person without influence or connections in the security services, his role is set to increase.
President Lukashenko is attempting to reduce risks in case of socio-economic destabilization and to balance out various law enforcement agencies. Ahead of the presidential campaign, the president cannot afford for influential persons to emerge in key positions, especially within the power structures. Therefore, presumably, he decided to enhance the national security assistant’s role – Viktor Lukashenko – by strengthening his informal leadership.
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.