Key to Victory over Kremlin Is in Kyiv
The distressful Belarusian-Russian negotiations on terms of supply of oil to Belarus have been going on for a second week already. Arguments of the parties are known. Russia is ready to supply Belarus with 6.3 million tons of hydrocarbons duty free. This is enough to fully meet the domestic needs of the republic. The Belarusian authorities insist that all oil should be delivered to the country on preferential terms, as it was done all previous years.
After four rounds of negotiations the parties did not manage to bring positions closer together. On Sunday evening the main Belarusian negotiator – the Vice-Premier Uladzimer Siamashka – was recalled to Minsk. Russian media blamed him for deliberately wrecking the talks:
"Before Uladzimer Siamashka joined in the negotiations, everything went well: all differences were settled including the mechanism of supply and transit of oil," wrote the Life News.
Moreover, as the newspaper notes, the Belarusian official coordinated his actions with the Administration of the President:
"Lukashenka is fully informed on the progress of the negotiations. Uladzimer Siamashka was constantly in touch with the Administration."
Information leaked out from sources in Russia's delegation that the Belarusian authorities intended to cover losses from the imposition of duties on oil by raising the rate for pumping Russian energy to Europe at 10 times.
In addition, Minsk started to blackmail its eastern neighbour threatening to stop transportation of electricity to Kaliningrad region of Russia. However, today nobody talks about an energy blockade any more. On Tuesday in Minsk negotiations are to take place between "Inter RAO UES" and "Belenergo". It is expected that the Belarusian side will offer its Russian partners to increase the cost of transit at 5.5 times.
Independent experts say that in the struggle with Russia Belarus has few trump cards: the market for Belarusian goods is in the East, and the European Union, with which Lukashenka strives to develop relations, has been interested only in oil products from cheap Russian oil. Their share in Belarusian exports has grown from 12% to 37% in the course of several years.
Yet Alexander Lukashenka would have had a chance to win back from Russia the right to cheap energy if Ukraine had supported him in that struggle.
"If Lukashenka had managed to coordinate his actions with Ukraine’s leadership and together they had blocked supplies of Russian energy resources to the West, then Russia would not have other choice but to make concessions," thinks the Russian expert Kirill Koktysh.
Theoretically, such an agreement between the Presidents Lukashenka and Yushchenko could have been concluded, the more so because the politicians have had good relations recently. Ukraine’s President provided political support to Lukashenka while the issue of Belarus’ inclusion in the European Union’s programme "Eastern Partnership" was addressed. In the oil conflict, Viktor Yushchenko also defended Lukashenka. The situation in Belarus is exactly the same as in Ukraine in the gas sector, he had said in Lviv. He added that oil and gas "unfortunately has become politics".
But the problem is that Ukraine will have the presidential election on Sunday and the leader of the "orange revolution", according to all polls, has no chance of being re-elected for the second term. The struggle for the position will be led by the Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and the head of the Party of Regions Viktor Yanukovych.
Both these politicians are considered to be pro-Russian. Russian and Ukrainian journalists even argue which of these candidates is more "pro-Kremlin". This means that in the near future Lukashenka cannot count on creating some anti-Russia energy bloc.
Experts say that after solving the "Ukrainian problem" the Kremlin will take Belarus in hand. It will be then that the Belarusian leadership learns the true value of "union relations".