Belarus hopes to conclude a new agreement on the supply of Russian oil for next year by the end of 2020. At the same time, the negotiation process is proceeding surprisingly peacefully, without the traditional "heat and tension" on the part of Minsk. What can be connected with the extraordinary constructiveness of the fraternal republic on such a painful issue for it?
It would not be an exaggeration to say that the oil issue is a cornerstone in relations between Moscow and Minsk. A friendly country has made the most of its status as our only ally on the western flank, receiving raw materials for its refineries at a huge discount. Some of the oil went to meet domestic needs, and the rest was refined and exported abroad, bringing good income to everyone involved. Their hands were especially hot when oil products refined from Russian oil were exported from the country to Europe according to “gray schemes”. Evil tongues say that this was one of the main reasons why the Belarusian authorities avoided transferring their transit from the Baltic to Russian ports.
But a year ago, this business was under an existential threat. Russia has embarked on a so-called "tax maneuver" in its oil industry, which sparked genuine outrage from President Lukashenko:
They made a maneuver - they introduced a tax on the extraction of minerals and thereby raised the price of oil. Gradually, 15-20% each brought us to the world price. Today we have only 18-20% of this customs duty.
An open secret is that in this way Moscow tried to force Minsk to move from talking to real steps to integrate Belarus and Russia in the format of the Union State, which Alexander Grigorievich deftly evaded all the time, not wanting to become the "last president", hinting at the loss of sovereignty. And then mutual great difficulties began.
Last January, the agreement expired, according to which Russia was obliged to supply Belarus with 24 million tons of oil annually, and Moscow did not renew it. Minsk threatened to replace Russian oil with American, Norwegian, Saudi or Kazakhstani. There were even talks about deploying Druzhba in reverse mode to pump raw materials from Poland. This was technically feasible, but the key question was economic feasibility, since the replacement of a key importer led to a significant increase in costs.
And then there was an extremely unpleasant incident with the contamination of Russian oil supplied to Belarus with dangerous impurities, because of which Moscow itself "fell on the dough." All this gave Minsk a reason to increase tariffs for pumping raw materials through its territory to Europe by 1% from February 2020, 6,6 to compensate for the loss of its budget revenues due to the "tax maneuver" and damage caused by dirty oil. And this was only the beginning: there is no doubt that in the future, tariffs would only continue to grow. Relations between the two fraternal countries would continue to deteriorate.
Everything changed after the extremely controversial presidential elections in Belarus last summer. To call a spade a spade, Lukashenka remained in power only thanks to the unambiguous support of the Kremlin, which made it clear that, if necessary, it would send military support to help him. Obviously sad lessons policy non-intervention in Ukraine in 2014 was learned. However, the payment for the new presidential term for Alexander Grigorievich was the severance of relations with the West, which refused to recognize the election results as legal and imposed personal sanctions against him and his entourage. Thus, Minsk suddenly lost the opportunity for political maneuver between Russia and Europe with the United States, which it had threatened the Kremlin with in all previous years.
That's it, the circus is over. The harsh everyday life of a small country sandwiched between the EU and the Russian Federation, on which it critically depends, began. One shouldn't be surprised that the year 2020 ends without traditional hysterics on the part of the Belarusian leadership. Apparently, a new contract for the supply of oil will be concluded, but it will feature not 24 million tons per year, but 18. The premium of Russian oil companies supplying raw materials to Belarus will be reduced from 6% of the volume to 2%, instead , most likely, Minsk will have to meet Moscow halfway with transit tariffs.