27 February 2020, Thursday, 8:29
The Wait Is Nearly Over
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Norwegian & Belavezhian

Norwegian & Belavezhian
JOHAN SVERDRUP DEPOSIT, NORWAY
PHOTO: EPA/EFE

The Belarusian officials were already waving hello on the landing stage, waiting for the “rescuer tanker” to arrive.

The tanker with Norwegian oil was so waited so anxiously in Belarus as if it was going along the Road of Life. Of course, in the port of Klaipeda they did not meet it with an orchestra and over-hospitable welcome, but the official Belarusian media presented the news about the tanker entering the port just like that. The saving 80 thousand tons of Norwegian oil, designed to load the Naftan refinery in Navapolatsk, and thus save the sovereignty of Belarus, arrived in Klaipeda on January 22.

At the same time, Belarusian officials keep the price of the Norwegian oil in deep secrecy. Economists are forced to calculate approximately. Although the order of magnitude is clear anyway. A barrel today costs about $ 65. There are 7.28 barrels in a ton. The price per ton is $ 473. Plus, the costs of transshipment and transportation to Naftan - according to experts, the price of Norwegian oil for Belarus could be about $ 520 per ton. Last year, Russia supplied oil to Belarus at a price of $ 364 per ton.

Judging by the data provided by Belstat, from January to November 2019, Belarus purchased 16.3 million tons of oil, paying almost six billion dollars for it. For the whole year - 18 million tons, with the demand of the domestic market being 4-6 million tons. The indicative balance sheet signed last year provided for the supply of 24 million tons of oil from Russia. They haven’t agreed on the price yet, though.

By the way, Russia sold oil to “non-union” countries at $ 485 per ton - this was the average price of the Urals brand last year. So the numbers are clear: Belarus’s oil was very cheap, and buying Norwegian oil after Russian is very expensive. It is no longer possible to artificially restrain fuel prices. And the presidential election will take place this year, so it was not the right time for all this oil story to happen.

But the tanker arrived on time, according to the schedule.

Actually, this was its mission - to come with fanfare, walk along the catwalk, demonstrate to the whole world that “I didn’t really want to.” Because in reality, these 80 thousand tons will provide Naftan’s capacity utilization for 2.7 days. And the function of this deal is demonstrative.

BREIVIKEN TANKER, DELIVERING OIL FOR “NAFTAN”.
PHOTO: VIKEN SHIPPING

So in 2010, Belarusian officials were waving hello on the landing stage of the Odesa port in anticipation of a tanker from Venezuela, while it plowed the vast expanses of the oceans. Then Russia introduced export duties on oil, and Lukashenka flew to the still alive Hugo Chavez. Chavez promised fraternal assistance to the Belarusian people, and the parties entered into a three-year agreement on the supply of 30 million tons of oil - 10 million tons per year. So, oil in that fraternal Venezuelan tanker cost Belarus $ 737 per ton, taking into account transshipment and delivery by rail to the Mazyr refinery. In 2011, Belarus bought a million tons of Azerbaijani oil at a price of $ 838 per ton. The Russian oil - even taking into account the duty - would have cost much cheaper.

But the Venezuelan tanker played a role. Russia introduced and abolished export duties for Belarus. The contract for three years safely flew into the trash, especially since the then Venezuelan ambassador to Belarus, Americo Diaz Nunez, honestly admitted in January 2011 that Venezuela would not be able to produce so much oil for Belarus, therefore it would buy oil from Azerbaijan and resell to Belarus to fulfill the terms of the contract. But they did not have to do this either. As Uladzimir Siamashka, First Deputy Prime Minister of the Belarusian Government, said in 2012, “the Venezuelan and Azerbaijani oil that we bought had the effect: if there weren’t this oil, there wouldn’t be a profitable agreement with Russia that we have today.”

Extremely clear wording, nothing to add.

PHOTO: NATALLIA FEDOSENKA / TASS

Now, Norwegian oil is supposed to fulfill the same task - to demonstrate that there is an alternative, albeit more expensive. And then it will be Russia’s move. According to the logic of these strange allied relations, Moscow should immediately agree to the conditions set forth by Minsk, compensate for the losses from the tax maneuver, and fill Belarus with cheap oil. But the difference between the current situation and all previous crises is that, in addition to oil, the price of gas has also hung in the air. There has never happened before that a year started without a signed gas supply contract, albeit at 23.59 on December 31. This is the first time ever.

The rest of the situation is typical. One is bargaining for a freebie and support to run for the seventh term, the other, having solved the problem of his own presidential terms, out of sporting interest presses the first, defining borders. In a word, “both are worse”.

Iryna Khalip, Novaya Gazeta