Belarusian delegation in Venezuela
The Belarusian Delegation, headed by the First Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus Vladimir Semashko, visited Venezuela on 26 – 30 April.
The members of the delegation included Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Aleinik, Deputy Minister of Architecture and Construction Sergei Lastochkin, Deputy Industry Minister Gennadiy Sviderski, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Foodstuffs Leonid Marynich, Deputy Chairman of the Belneftekhim, Vladimir Volkov, as well as representatives of several Belarusian enterprises.
Comment. In addition to the existing extensive programme of the Belarusian-Venezuelan cooperation on the construction of Venezuelan sites, it appears that the parties will discuss other issues, primarily economic. However, given the current economic crisis in Venezuela, one should not expect significant funds coming to Belarus from them.
Belarus buys oil from Venezuela for almost $ 800 per tonne, while Russia supplies at $ 430. Moreover, the current contract with Russia obliges Belarus to buy 22 million tons of oil, which makes economically inefficient the purchase of 4 million tons of the overseas oil. It is possible that the subject of negotiations (given Vladimir Semashko’s role of Energy supervisor in the country) will concern the prospects and the outcome of the diversification of oil supplies to Belarus and the end of the “Venezuelan” project (Azeri oil supply was also virtually frozen, only 600 million tons of oil were supplied from the needed 800 million tons, Mozyr oil refinery is closed in April and for the following two months for repairs, i.e. in addition to the controversial economic effect of the project, Belarus is physically not able to process the Venezuelan crude oil). Last week Belarus tried to negotiate processing of Azeri oil at Ukrainian refineries. It also shows the reduced interest of Belarus in the Venezuelan-Ukraine-Azerbaijan oil transport project.
Over the past year, military-political relations between Minsk and Kyiv have become complicated. Due to their high inertia and peculiarities, this downward trend would be extremely difficult to overcome.
The root cause of the crisis is the absence of a common political agenda in the Belarusian-Ukrainian relations. Minsk is looking for a market for Belarusian exports in Ukraine and offers its services as a negotiation platform for the settlement of the Russo-Ukrainian war, thereby hoping to avoid political issues in the dialogue with Kiev. Meanwhile, Ukraine is hoping for political support from Minsk in the confrontation with Moscow. In addition, Ukraine’s integration with NATO presupposes her common position with the Alliance in relation to Belarus. The NATO leadership regards the Belarusian Armed Forces as an integral part of the Russian military machine in the western strategic front (the Baltic states and Poland). In addition, the ongoing military reform in Ukraine envisages a reduction in the number of generals and the domestic political struggle makes some Ukrainian top military leaders targets in politically motivated attacks.
Hence, the criticism of Belarus coming from Ukrainian military leadership is dictated primarily by internal and external political considerations, as well as by the need to protect the interests of generals, and only then by facts.
For instance, initially, the Ukrainian military leadership made statements about 100,000 Russian servicemen allegedly taking part in the Russo-Belarusian military drill West-2017. Then the exercises were labelled quazi-open and military observers from Ukraine refused to provide their assessment, which caused a negative reaction in Minsk. Further, without citing specific facts, it was stated that Russia was building up its military presence in Belarus.
Apparently, the Belarusian and Ukrainian Defence Ministries have entangled in a confrontational spiral (on the level of rhetoric). Moreover, only a small part of the overly hidden process has been disclosed. That said, third states are very likely to take advantage of the situation (or have already done so). This is not only about Russia.
The Belarusian Defence Ministry officials are restrained in assessing their Ukrainian counterparts. However, such a restraint is not enough. Current military-political relations between Belarus and Ukraine are unlikely to stabilise without the intervention of both presidents.