The situation is much more serious than it used to be.
From January 1, Russia stopped supplying oil to the Belarusian refineries at the state level.
Despite the fact that supplies were partially resumed privately, at the level of agreements between economic entities, we can state that for the first time as at the start of year official Minsk has been left without an agreement with Russia on oil prices.
Also, the agreement on gas prices has been reached only for the first two months of 2020.
Against this background, Minsk has stopped exporting oil products being afraid of fuel shortage in the domestic market.
What are the consequences of another "oil war" between the Kremlin and Minsk for the Belarusian economy? Leanid Zaika, head of the Strategy analytical center and economist, answers questions of Charter97.org.
On the eve of January 1, for the first time Lukashenka failed to reach an agreement with Russia on the price of oil for the next year. How would you comment on this situation?
- I am an old man and therefore I know a lot. This situation is the second in the history of Lukashenka's power.
The first one is known only to specialists. The first case, when oil supply was stopped, occurred back in the days of Yeltsin, who reacted sharply to the arrest of Pavel Sharamet in Belarus. Yeltsin then said: "Let Sharamet go!".
However, Lukashenka ignored all the Russian, Yeltsin's appeals. And then they stopped supplying oil from Russia for just a few hours. As a result, Sharamet was released within the day and the oil went on again.
That is, what is happening is an extreme measure that the Russians are using towards the Belarusian leadership. And now we see the second such case. That is why, without exaggeration, all this is very serious: Lukashenka has received a "black mark" from the Kremlin. The stopped oil supply is a real "black mark," and it will be very difficult for him to get out of this situation.
- What does Russia want this time?
- As they say in our market: "to rub one's face against the table". This is an absolutely clear layout to ensure that Lukashenka would know his place, remembering that, in principle, now all the levers of economic power are in Russia.
Lukashenka did not listen to specialists, he did not pay attention and was careless in energy policy. He personally got Belarus addicted to this drug needle - a gas and oil one. If the gas tariffs are then compensated by finished products, when the Belarusian export prices are just increased, the situation with oil is more complicated.
Oil concerns the interests of all those people around Lukashenka. Some Russian oligarchs and the Belarusian circles around Lukashenka used this oil to earn very serious money. Now they are back at the bottom of the ladder.
That's why Mikhail Gutseriev tried to show "friendly feelings" and help, but it's ridiculous, because all he can do is give 100-120 thousand tons, and the monthly processing standard in Belarus is about 2 million tons.
Gutseriev will supply his 120, even 200 thousand tons, but it is impossible to supply as much as the Belarusian refineries need. It will be 5-10%. So, today Belarus is deprived of 90% of oil.
- What, in your opinion, will happen to the Belarusian economy and what political consequences may follow?
- Now we are going to turn to a professional economist. There are still technical reserves - for the oil pipelines to work, there is still oil going through the pipelines. There are some minimum reserves.
However, the danger increases in Belarus with each passing day. To date, Belarus has stopped exporting oil products. And that was up to 40% of all the exports in the best years. Therefore, our currency revenues will decrease sharply. This will definitely lead to the weakening of the Belarusian ruble.
It can also lead to a series of negative processes, which will develop very rapidly. Be aware that for now, Belarus is not selling oil products, giving everything on the domestic market. We need about 6 million tons of oil a year, that is 500-600 thousand tons a month. If the situation continues in the same way, it will practically collapse the domestic market and the currency.
Now let's look at the political component. Obviously, it makes no sense for the Kremlin to collapse the Belarusian economy. The second point is that it is, at least, stupid to make out of Lukashenka a "defender of the Belarusian sovereignty". By the way, when somebody, who calls himself "an oppositionist", does it, it is even a doubly stupidity.
Therefore, I think that the Kremlin will act quietly - as it was done during interrogations in the NKVD. They will slowly hammer on Lukashenka's fingers.
- What should Belarus do to finally get off the Russian "oil and gas needle"?
- Lukashenka should resign, the government should be send to the Canary Islands, disperse all this retinue and get a normal, decent government.
The "presidential" republic is nonsense at all. There's a need for radical measures. Neither the Prime Minister, nor any other of those currently in power will solve the problem. Lukashenka can "solve the problem" only in one case: if he strictly and rigorously follows the orders of Major Putin.
The Kremlin has carefully calculated the situation, has taken into account, so to speak, the assessments of special services, and so on. It is not professional to pressurize with sovereignty, to remove the Belarusian sovereignty in this situation, they will not do it. They will just conduct a "good old" interrogation, so to speak, to keep Lukashenka under complete control.
This is a simple task for them. By the way, it should be said that many Belarusian politicians have been waiting for such a situation for a long time.
However, the Kremlin started doing it without taking the side of the democratic forces of Belarus, without following any principles of freedom and democracy. It started doing all this absolutely like the master of the house would do. The Kremlin started to work for itself. It got tired of all those songs and dances.
As for the "integration" and "union state," you may notice that on the day of Chekist, December 20, Putin had no conversations with Lukashenka regarding this matter. And in general, this is quite obvious. The Kremlin will do what they consider most profitable in the future. This is how it looks.