Nuts & Bolts of foreign policy
Minsk seeks to draw Russia into a broader confrontation with the West, though so far, without much success. The Kremlin issues statements supportive of the Belarusian regime, but with the objective of dominating future Belarusian foreign policy while playing a two-handed game of its own.
On November 9th, the energy ministers of Russia and Belarus signed a protocol amending the agreement on pricing for the supply and transportation of natural gas. The Ministry of Energy press release states that “gas prices will be fixed in a joint document with Gazprom PJSC, based on 2021 rates”. This follows an earlier agreement between Putin and Lukashenka that in 2022 the price of gas will remain at the current year’s level.
On November 10th, Lukashenka threatened to block the transit of gas to Europe. The following day, the press secretary of the Russian president, Peskov, responded that this threat was not coordinated with the Kremlin. He further emphasised that Russia was and is “the guarantor of the energy security of the European continent”, President Putin did not discuss such a step with Lukashenka, and “the blocking of gas transit to Europe by Belarus would be a violation of our transit contract.”
During the joint board of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of Russia and Belarus on November 10th, Belarusian Foreign Minister Makei and his colleague Sergei Lavrov approved the “Program of Coordinated Actions in the Field of Foreign Policy for 2022-2023”. A similar foreign policy coordination document is issued every two years. According to analysts, the adopted program is fundamentally no different from the past, despite the changed circumstances.
During the press conference that followed the meeting, the foreign ministers of Russia and Belarus ritualistically condemned Western sanctions against Belarus and blamed the EU for the migration crisis. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Pankin also gave an assurance that Moscow is ready to “lend a shoulder” in the event of tougher EU sanctions being imposed.
However, as the threatened Belarusian gas blockade illustrates, Kremlin support is strictly circumscribed to furthering Kremlin interests, which may not coincide with Lukashenka’s.
During closed consultations of the UN Security Council on November 11th, the United States, Great Britain and the European Union adopted a joint statement on eastern borders, in which they condemned Minsk’s actions related to the migration crisis and classified Belarus as a threat to regional security. Russia denied western accusations that it is assisting Minsk in the weaponisation of migrants and is not mentioned in the document.
Nevertheless, Bloomberg reports that the EU is discussing the possibility of imposing sanctions against the Russian airline Aeroflot as part of a new package of sanctions targeting individuals and companies involved in orchestrating the transport of migrants to the Belarus-EU border.