29 March 2020, Sunday, 9:21
People’s Quarantine
Categories

‘Oil Emirate’ Enters Cold Turkey Stage

40
‘Oil Emirate’ Enters Cold Turkey Stage
PHOTO: KOMMERSANT

Lukashenka is ready to do anything for oil.

Recently, CEO of Belgazprombank Viktar Babaryka very accurately described the “epic battles” for energy and money: “It's a shame, but I’ll say anyway - Belarus behaves like a finished drug addict who needs an ever-stronger drug. We do not want to be treated, we want a larger and stronger dose. And we will have to pay for it.” What is happening now reminds the cold turkey so much. The same as a drug addict is ready for anything, even for a crime, just to get a dose, so our government is ready for anything just to get oil.

Thus, Lukashenka announced his readiness to take the transit oil from the Druzhba pipeline if Russia does not supply the volume of oil approved by the balance sheet. According to him, in February Belarus can take up to 2 million tons of oil from the transit flow in the absence of regular supplies. So, in fact, like a drug addict in search of a dose, our government is fixated on oil and gas. With gas, the issue for this year seems to have been resolved; but oil remains. And we will get it in full, the authorities say, in the worst case, we pump it out of the transit pipe.

Does Belarus need all 24 million tons of oil under the new conditions? No one seems to have thought about it. Russia supplies us with oil for domestic consumption on our terms. It is unlikely to stop. Do we need more? Will the export of petroleum products become unprofitable? But the addict does not think about it. He is ready to receive a dose at any cost, even at the cost of war, for pumping someone else's oil from a transit pipe is a declaration of an oil and, possibly, full-scale economic war. Is this necessary before the “main exam”? In fact, it doesn’t matter anymore whether we will “fight back” the full amount of oil for the current year at the price we have determined or not. It’s all the same clear that the “oil emirate” without its oil sooner or later ceases to exist, and is doomed to the search for alternatives. Moreover, the search is not an alternative oil, but an alternative to oil. This should have long been done, but nothing is being done today.

Has the moment of truth arrived? Either we are independent and live by our own labor, or we must still surrender to Putin, as The Washington Post writes about this. According to the publication, oil supplies from the United States are unlikely to save Belarusian refineries. “On the contrary, Lukashenka will have to choose: either surrender to Putin, or at least take steps in the direction of shock therapy for the economy, which will free it from Russian dependence. And if he chooses the latter scenario, the United States and the European Union should do everything possible to ease the pain, while not ceasing to demand an improvement in the human rights situation.”

We must finally realize that the transition to world energy prices for an independent and sovereign Belarus is absolutely inevitable. Like market relations - instead of “fraternal” ones, with all partners without exception. Regardless of who rot in which trenches. In other words, the option of complete independence with economic conditions similar to the regions of the Russian Federation has completely disappeared. Separate rudimentary manifestations are still possible, but this will not last long. Basing the country's economic policy on this scheme further on is stupid and shortsighted. We need to look for other ways to make money. Moreover, it about earning money, not getting it for nothing in friendship with Russia, or for hostility with it.

Lukashenka claims that all wars and quarrels with Russia arise solely on the basis of his struggle for equal conditions for business entities within the Union State and the EAEU. “We agreed that we will have trade in goods and services without customs duties. But what kind of a union is that, if there are no equal conditions for people, enterprises?”, Lukashenka said as he met with workers of the Svetlahorsk Cardboard and Paper Mill. “You have gas for, let us assume, $ 200, and the same enterprises in Russia have it for $ 100 or 80. How can we compete with them? So, we have to burn less electricity, work in the cold, pay less to the people and so on. There you have equal conditions. That's what I fight for and what I want.”

But the Russians, on their part, are right when they say that absolutely the same conditions with Russia can only be in Russia. This can be taken as a hint of “reunification,” or it can be seen as a proposal to decide, finally, whether Belarus is an independent state or not. And the choice, ultimately, is only ours. It’s either independence, or “equal conditions” within the framework of one state. Both that and another at the same time is no longer possible.

The first quarter is ending, and we are all looking for an oil alternative and cannot find any. Although, probably, no one was looking for anything. Perhaps, this is not necessary, since in the context of world oil prices it ceases to be the main source of replenishment of the budget. Oil at world prices for the domestic market today can be bought anywhere, including the United States and the aforementioned Russia. Here, there is no need to involve even the government, let alone the head of state. The authorities should be engaged in the development of a life strategy for an independent state, and not try to save the “oil emirate” existing on foreign oil.

Yury Pshennik, Our Opinion