On January 13, another attempt by representatives of the Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) of Russia and the Ministry of Antimonopoly Regulation and Trade (MART) of Belarus to agree tariffs on the transportation of Russian energy through the Belarusian sections of the Druzhba oil pipeline ended in complete failure. The next round of negotiations is expected to take place on January 15. The final deadline by which the parties must reach a mutually acceptable decision is February 1. Otherwise, quite serious problems can be expected by both our exporters and enterprises of the oil refining industry of our neighbors.
Nevertheless, in this difficult situation, official Minsk stubbornly continues to take a position that can hardly be called constructive and realistic even with the greatest desire. Why so? What can the next “oil war” between the countries ultimately lead to?
"I reeled your pipe!"
Attempts to "stagger" the Druzhba transit pipeline pipe passing through Belarus, periodically undertaken by the indefatigable But father, in principle, are already perceived as something unpleasant, but inevitable. Minsk’s desire to raise the tariff for transportation of our energy resources by 21.7% has been voiced repeatedly over the past year, and the incident with the ingress of “dirty” oil and the collisions and problems that accompanied it only added to the already difficult situation. The consent of the Russian Transneft to increase the transit tariff by 1% from September 2019, 3.7 (with the expected similar increase from February 1, 2020), the unbridled appetites of the Belarusian side can not satisfy. Take it out and put a rise in price by almost a quarter - otherwise nothing! At the same time, JSC Gomeltransneft Druzhba, which is a transit country, is trying to repeat something about both the "inflation component" and the "lost profit", which decreased due to a decrease in the volume of pumping "black gold". In Moscow, all these “calculations” are openly skeptical, considering a significant part of the material claims to be far-fetched, if not taken at all, as they say, “from the ceiling”. According to the relevant intergovernmental agreements, neither Minsk nor Moscow has the right to change the tariff “at will”. It can only be “a product with complete non-resistance of the parties,” as the immortal mechanic Mechnikov used to say. But this just does not add up categorically.
Fuel to the fire was significantly added to the decree adopted on the eve of Lukashenko on the introduction of a new, "environmental" tax on oil transportation. Well, Alexander Grigoryevich Tunberg is direct ... A new fiscal fee (by no means small) should become "insurance" in case any disaster suddenly threatens the beautiful nature of Belarus because of the oil pipeline. All the same, Gomeltransneft Druzhba OJSC will have to pay the tax, and it seems to have absolutely nothing to do with Russia. Everything seemed to be “exactly”, however ... According to the original plan, the money “for ecology” should have been charged just from the raised tariff for transportation. Such a tricky combination turns out: “Enter our position! We’re not in our own pockets - we love our native nature! In accordance with, so to speak, the latest world trends and mainstream ... In a word, let's pay, don’t wobble! ” Well, definitely somehow it turns out. At the same time, even the hedgehogs living in the Belarusian forests, whose father’s so patently cares about “Fatherland,” is probably understandable - the point here is simply in his next attempt, even if so, to at least compensate for the “tax maneuver” that threatens to chop off the Belarusian oil refineries this year, say as much as 5% profit! In other words, to make up for the rapidly escaping opportunity to dump Belarusian oil products in the fuel markets of the same Poland and Ukraine due to the raw materials obtained at a fabulously low price for their manufacture. That's the whole "ecology" ...
Oil Theater of the Absurd
All the loud statements, worthy of the stage of the best theaters in the world of pathos, made by Alexander Grigoryevich regarding “Russian greed”, “the desire to supply oil to the brotherly country at prices higher than world prices” and the like are not just unscrupulous. They are also absurd. Of particular affection among them is the “Father’s” anger over the fact that Gazprom, they say, “does not hesitate to earn more money from Belarus than Germany in the year of the 75th anniversary of the Victory”! Here, excuse me, no comment. Arranging this kind of show that sounds like a simulated “insult”, Lukashenko periodically “throws it into the masses” of ideas about the “complete rejection of Russian oil” and the supposedly “real alternatives” to its supply. Not so long ago, a grand opening was announced in Minsk with great triumph - new places of occurrence of “black gold” were discovered at the Gartsevskoye oil field! In the amount of as many as three pieces and with an expected volume of 800 thousand tons. Well, that’s all - Kuwait and the Emirates are nervously smoking on the sidelines ... They are about to start mining almost in April of this year. All this, of course, is wonderful. If you don’t remember that there are more than eight hundred wells in Belarus today that give it about 8 million tons of oil per year. That's just Minsk imported “black gold” last year exactly 1.7 times more! Own oil there, by the way, is usually allowed for export. It’s only now that the deal has been put to an end - in the conditions of the crisis provoked by the Belarusian side itself, the entire “domestic product”, having barely obtained, has to be sent to its own refineries, which are barely surviving on the “starvation ration”.
For Belarus, reasonable and acceptable alternatives to Russian energy supplies do not exist in principle. Well, if there, of course, we don’t intend to start a complete restructuring of our own literally from tomorrow economics... There is no doubt for a second that Lukashenko is well aware of this. Why then all this "oil theater of the absurd" ?! Most interestingly, in Belarus itself, it has long been an opinion that in all its “wars” with Moscow there are energy carriers, and their prices, as such, are the tenth thing. No, they, of course, matter (salaries, pensions must be paid!), But far from paramount. Some skeptics in Minsk themselves claim that the “father’s” zamagarism is nothing but a long-thought-out and “run-in” election campaign by him technology. Judge for yourself - the next presidential election is on the way. What can be presented to the electorate as “breakthroughs” and achievements for the last term of endless rule? Belarus, in fact, is a country with a “stopped” time - far from the worst, it must be recognized, but tightly “frozen”, like a piece of amber. There is stability - and great. However, for greater persuasiveness, the leader of the nation still needs victories, no matter who is won. In such a situation, Russia is invariably chosen to play the role of a “sparring partner”: it is clear that boxing will be half-hearted and will not hit much. Some Belarusian experts are sure that the “oil” and other similar crises in relations with Moscow invariably coincide with the electoral cycles of Alexander Grigoryevich. Over and over again, he stands up for the interests of his native country, thereby confirming his invariable image of a “strong man” and a “reference owner”.
Such a “self-affirmation” at the expense of a country that truly considers Belarus as its closest and most reliable ally does not look, to put it mildly ... Moreover, according to the laws of the genre, Alexander Grigoryevich will inevitably have to raise rates, raise heat in every new “fight” confrontation, reaching in it to increasingly dangerous limits. Now he has “put it on the black”, trying to force Russian oil workers to refuse the premium for energy supplies and ship them almost at a loss. At the same time, not only fairly transparent hints of "pipe shutdown" are used, but actions directly aimed at stopping transit. Minsk is well aware of the problems that Rosneft may have as a result with consumers in Hungary and Germany, and shamelessly play on it. Moreover, there is a danger that this time Lukashenko could go even further by trying to turn Russian military facilities located on the territory of Belarus into a bargaining chip. A quite certain concern is that contrary to the statements made long ago by the local Minister of Defense Andrei Ravkov about their readiness to renegotiate the relevant treaties, the issue has not been resolved to this day. Has Minsk deliberately dragged on time, making plans for the next energy negotiations ?!
To our great regret, the questions of decisive progress in the deep integration of our countries, which until recently were the main ones on the agenda of Russian-Belarusian relations, have now faded into the background, giving way to purely mercantile moments. At the Belarusian oil refineries, operating today with a minimum load, which allows supporting production processes, experts estimate that there will be enough raw materials, at best, until the end of this month. At the same time, a decision should be made on transit tariffs. Russia is ready in 2020 to supply the Belarusian side with 24 million tons of “black gold”, increasing last year's supply by more than 6 million tons. The question is whether Minsk will be able to moderate in time inappropriate in this situation ambitions that harm not only the economy, but also the good-neighborly relations of our countries.