Moscow Itself and through its Vassal Belarus has Chances to Oppose the Baltic States

The fact that Belarus has bought oil from Norway has been mentioned by the international media – a prestigious has not ignored the information that around 80 thousand tons of oil produced in Johan Sverdrub oil field was supp…

The fact that Belarus has bought oil from Norway has been mentioned by the international media – a prestigious has not ignored the information that around 80 thousand tons of oil produced in Johan Sverdrub oil field was supplied to Belarusian oil refinery plant on 22 January by the railway. It has not been ignored probably for a reason, because since 1 January Moscow suspended supply of oil to Minsk after they failed to agree about the price.  
Minsk rarely earns international attention and this event might be called without precedent, maybe even indicating that the foreign policy vector of Belarus turned (nobody knows which in turn) or turned by 180 degrees from the east to the west. Moreover, the President Alexander Lukashenko obligated his government to look for oil in Ukraine, Poland, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Baltic States according to all requirements of the genre of public relations. The government, without any delay, also via the lips of Vice Minister Dmitry Krutoy loudly announced on 4 January that both Belarusian oil refineries (in Vitebsk and Polock) have negotiations with potential foreign partners and Minsk in the nearest future will have an alternative for the Russian oil.
Moreover, when Minsk asked Vilnius to import those 80 thousand tons via the port of Klaipėda, government of Lithuania willingly agreed and also offered to import gas, too.
However, is everything so smooth in the energy sector of Belarus when not just Lithuania but also all eastern Baltic States and the European Union (EU) have the Russian power plant at Astravets right next to the border built for the money of Russia and China? There were publications on the public domain at the end of 2019 that the Chinese state power company Power China and its subsidiary company North China Power Engineering (NCPE) were involved in implementation of the project of the Belarusian power energy transmission and the network connection that consists of 23 projects. Minsk received a 5 billion US dollars loan for these projects from Chinese export and import bank.
Division of works is just excellent – the Russian concern funds the reactors, China is taking care of the infrastructure and both of them realize energy and geopolitical expansion to the West through Belarus.
During a traditional meeting Sniego susitikimas of security policy experts held in Trakai in the middle of January Linas Linkevičius, Minister of Foreign Affairs admitted that Lithuania failed to stop construction of Astravets power plant and now we have to endeavour to increase safety of the power plant before its commissioning. Comments of L. Linkevičius summarize the advance of rhetoric about the power plant that is almost ready to be launched – previously it was emphasized that it cannot be built and now we talk only about its safety.
Almost at the same time when Latvian Vice Minister and Minister of Defence Artis Pabrikas took part in Sniego susitikimas and listened and probably discussed with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania, Minsk demonstrated ‘gestures’ of energy independence, Einars Semanis, the Ambassador of Latvia in Minsk, in his interview to the Belarusian news agency (on 14 January) in the eve of the visit of Krišjānis  Kariņš, the Prime Minister of Latvia, in Minsk (on 16 January) introduced topics of the dialogue with A. Lukashenko – not only preparation for the ice-hockey championship in 2021 that will be organized by both countries, the exchange visit of the Belarusian dictator in Riga this year, but also economic cooperation between Latvia and Belarus.      
For instance, within the last 9 months of the previous year the value of the oil products delivered to Belarus via the ports of Ventspils, Riga and (some) Liepaja was 476 million Euro, while the value of products delivered throughout the whole year of 2018 was 576 million. In 2019 Latvian railway delivered 3.7 million tons of the oil products to Belarus. The dynamics talks about the growth, not to mention that 585 Latvian capital companies are operating in Belarus and 874 Belarusian capital companies in Latvia.
Actually, the port of Klaipėda and Lietuvos geležinkeliai would also like to enjoy its success. And they are enjoying! Here we have confrontation of the Baltic interests when Baltic sisters in unison and while competing announce about their preparation to take part not only in transit projects with Belarus.    
In the official point of view, everything seems quite nice – the Baltic nations cooperate with Belarus and thus encourage Minsk to shift to the Western democracy. However, a geopolitical version is probable when the conflict between Vladimir Putin, President of Russia and Alexander Lukashenko, leader of Belarus, is just a ‘show’ (Potemkin Village).The actual goal is to incorporate Lithuania to cooperation in exchange for the export of Astravets power plant to the West via its territory by applying complex measures of ‘promotion’ that have been developed not just now.
The only way to stop plans of in Astravets until year 2012 was construction of Visaginas power plant. The final decision was made after referendum held on 14 October 2012 in Lithuania that decided not to build Visaginas power plant. Moscow approved funding of Astravets power plant, Alexander Lukashenko signed the first decree in regards to the start of construction of the first reactor on 2 November 2013. As soon as Lithuania said no in referendum in regards to Visaginas power plant, V.Putin (namely him) approved Belarusian power plan right after it.   
The construction site for it was chosen so it caused direct threat to security of Lithuania. Minsk has always simply ignored all protests of Lithuania (the report containing 61 pages of the Lithuanian government, two notes of protest of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, etc.). Lithuania has become a hostage of the situation – by refusing to build a power plant in its own territory it has a power plant right 50 km away from the capital.
We cannot simply say that Latvia has not dedicated to this, although if we just look from the point of view of neighbours, Latvians probably would have something unpleasant to tell to Lithuanians. For instance, we should remember that already in 2009 there were discussions regarding electricity link with Sweden when they were discussing whether to install communication line from Latvia or Lithuania and here Lithuania won the game. When talking about solidarity of the Baltic States we should remember an unsuccessful attempt of all Prime Ministers of the Baltic States to agree on location for the regional liquefied gas terminal. In the study that was completed in October 2012 by the European Commission they came up to a conclusion that the best place to have it is Estonia or Finland.
Everything ended just like ended, however such disputes probably leave bad feelings. Moscow simply manipulates in a professional and quite way under these circumstances when we  make memorandums (the last one was announced in the Seimas on 15 January) telling that we have to organise, resist threat caused by Russian-Belarusian power plant to both Lithuania and the European Union. We can work with anybody and we do. Moscow (on the topic of liquefied gas and terminals) has all possibilities to manipulate in solidarity of the Baltic States both by itself and through Belarus (Disputes in regards to electricity of Astravets power plant).
Arūnas Spraunius

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