Russia – Belarus: an oil noose as a means of deepening integration?
Belarus, Lithuania discuss oil amid Russia tensions
Moscow stopped oil supplies to Belarusian refineries, and Minsk announced the suspension of oil product exports
The transit of Russian Urals oil to European countries through Belarus has not been suspended, Reuters reports on Friday, January 3, citing its sources in the industry..
Earlier, the Belarusian state energy company Belneftekhim said Russia had stopped oil supplies to Belarus.
The parties failed to reach an agreement on deliveries by the due date – January 1.
Moscow said that supplies through Belarus, which is a key transit route for Russian oil and gas products, will continue. However, a protracted dispute could threaten its supply to European consumers. .
As reported in the statement of “Belneftekhim”, after the termination of the supply of oil from Russia, the loading of raw materials at two Belarusian oil refineries (refineries) – in Novopolotsk and Mozyr – has been reduced to a technological minimum. According to media reports, the reserves available at the refinery will be enough for about 20 days of work..
According to experts, a big question remains whether the neighboring countries, formally part of the Union State, will manage to agree on prices and renegotiate contracts during this period. And organizing alternative oil supplies (President Alexander Lukashenko instructed the government to work out this option), even if raw materials are available at prices acceptable for Belarus, will take much more time.
Meanwhile, “Belorussky Partizan”, referring to the telegram channel HARBACEVIČ, announced the decision of the Belarusian Council of Ministers to stop the export of oil products from the country. This has always been one of the main items of filling the budget of the republic. The decision is valid until “until further notice”.
Given this course of events, it is not at all excluded that Belarusian enterprises and thermal power plants will switch to the tested backup fuel – fuel oil. Although not environmentally friendly, it is cheap.
The oil war is taking place against the backdrop of unsuccessful negotiations at the level of the presidents and heads of government of the two countries on the deepening of the integration process within the Union State. At the same time, there are strong sentiments in Minsk that in this way Russia wants to swallow up the republic, forcing it to strictly follow in the wake of the Kremlin’s foreign policy. Alexander Lukashenko has said more than once that the issue of Belarus’ sovereignty in the negotiations should not be raised in principle. Meanwhile, part of the Russian expert community stubbornly insists that Belarus will face an unenviable fate without regular Russian assistance in the form of loans and subsidies, and for Lukashenka this poses a serious threat of losing the reins of government..
Independent Belarusian analyst, political scientist Artem Shraibman I strongly disagree with this opinion. In a commentary for the Russian service of Voice of America, he recalled that Minsk has not taken Russian loans for more than a year, and nothing terrible has happened yet..
“And the election of the president of the republic is an administrative process, not a political one,” the political scientist says. – There are no fair elections in Belarus. The system is strictly controlled “.
As the political scientist thinks, if Belarus is completely deprived of Russian subsidies, problems of a different kind may arise: “The people will start to get poorer. And poor people are more difficult to govern. This is what is called deferred risk. But in reality, such a plot in which Russia is able to bring the situation in the republic to a pre-revolutionary state in the six months remaining before the presidential elections is impossible ”.
Even with Ukraine, with which Russia is at an undeclared war, relations do not look like a complete economic blockade, the political scientist emphasized..
“Of course, the level of Russian support for the status quo in Belarus is quite serious. Some people estimate it in total at 9-10 GDP of the republic. This is significant, but it is not what causes the regime to collapse like a house of cards. Even if we imagine that Russia will suddenly cut off all channels of support and introduce a blockade against Belarus, this does not mean that Lukashenka will necessarily fall ”.
At the same time, Artem Shraibman is sure that such a radical scenario will never come true, because it is not in Moscow’s interests..
In turn, Deputy Dean of the Faculty of World Economy and Politics, SU-HSE Andrey Suzdaltsev believes that if Russia stops providing assistance to Belarus in the same amounts, then half of the republic’s economy will remain.
“Wages will drop two or three times, and half of the country will leave (to work),” he predicts. – Already now, more than a million Belarusians are working abroad, another two or three million will leave. Such are the prospects “.
According to the political scientist, this actually means the collapse of the regime. Lukashenko uses the formula of power: the one who solves the problems of the republic, who seeks financial and resource support from Moscow, is the one who has the right to power. In accordance with this principle, he stayed at the helm for more than 25 years, ”insists Andrey Suzdaltsev.
Fellow of the Center for Eastern European Studies Kamil Klyszczynski believes that Lukashenka will have a difficult time without successful negotiations with Moscow and Russian subsidies in the gas and oil sector. According to him, this is a significant factor in the Belarusian economy..
“If they are absent or they are severely cut, since negotiations on this score cannot yet be called successful, this will seriously complicate the situation in the Belarusian economy, but will not lead to its immediate collapse,” he added in a comment for the Russian service of the Voice of America. – The Belarusians will live poorer, but Lukashenka will explain everything by the fact that there are enemies around, as he has done more than once. Opponents will be intimidated, supporters will be persuaded that he is the only defender of national sovereignty, and will play on this “.
According to Kamil Klyszczynski, Lukashenka has every chance to be re-elected again this year, which will allow him to speak from a stronger position in negotiations with Moscow..