Belarus just ordered U.S. oil for the first time. It was a message to Russia.
Lukashenko has long balanced keeping Russia close but not too close. He rarely throws up any roadblocks to Russian policies. But Lukashenko also has resisted the Kremlin’s push for the two countries to form a unified state — something they agreed to in 1999.
Oil is often part of the political mix. Belarus has enjoyed a sweetheart deal with Russia, and keeping rates discounted was one of Moscow’s selling points to finally make the unity pact official.
So when they failed in December to agree on a new price for oil Moscow sells to Minsk, Russia temporarily cut the supply. Lukashenko then vowed to diversify Belarus’s oil suppliers. He delivered by purchasing shipments from Azerbaijan, Norway and Saudi Arabia all in the past five months, capitalizing on a coronavirus-induced shock to oil prices.
The U.S. deal is for one shipment. But few other oil agreements are so geopolitically significant that they prompt a statement from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who said it “strengthens Belarusian sovereignty and independence.”
[Source: Washington Post]