Mike Pompeo became the first secretary of state to visit Belarus in 26 years. He arrived in Minsk and meet with President Alexander Lukashenko on February 1.
The visit came amid new tensions between Minsk and Moscow over energy supplies, and Lukashenko’s unwillingness to fulfill Belarus’ obligations under the Union State agreement between Russia and Belarus. SouthFront covered these developments earlier: UNION STATE, ENERGY. Long story short, Minsk seeks to continue receiving cheap energy resources, technologies, cheap loans (rather donations to the Belarus economy), other economic and trade preferences from Russia, but does not want to act like a Russian ally in the economic, diplomatic and in some cases even security spheres.
Minsk’s approach led to expected issues within the Russia-Belarus relations. On December 31, 2019 Russia stopped supplying oil to Belarus afte rthe two nations had failed to renegotiate an agreed oil price following another round of negotiations on the further implementation of the Union State agreement. In respnose, Lukashenko accused Russia of stopping supplies “to dissolve Belarus.”
Today I will visit Belarus – the first visit by a U.S. Secretary of State in 25 years. I look forward to meeting with President Lukashenka and Foreign Minister Makei in #Minsk as we look to expand our relationship.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) February 1, 2020
During the meeting with Lukashenko, Pompeo said the US hoped to help provide an opportunity for Belarus to achieve the “sovereignty” and “independence” it seeks.
“The United States wants to help Belarus build its own sovereign country,” Pompeo said at a joint news conference with Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei. “Our energy producers stand ready to deliver 100% of the oil you need at competitive prices. We’re the biggest energy producer in the world and all you have to do is call us.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for “real progress” in bilateral relations with Belarus, and urged economic and political reforms as well as improved human rights conditions. Lukashenko told Pompeo it was “very good that you risked coming to Minsk after various misunderstandings between Belarus and the U.S.” Belarus’ foreign ministry officially welcomed the strengthening role of the United States in Belarus. Minsk said that both Belarus and the United States have many common challenges and threats that they should adress jointly.
The approach of the current Belarusian leadership demonstrates that Lukashenko did not learn lessons of other ‘authoritarian regimes’ that flirted with the United States and its ‘European partners’. Muammar al-Gaddafi (Libya), Slobodan Milosevic (Yugoslavia), Saddam Hussein (Iraq) also thought they can negotiate with the US-led bloc a deal that would allow them to remain in power (or at least alive) in exchange of surrendering their countries’ national interests and allies. Nonetheless, all these cases ended up with large tragedies. The Lukashenko government is putting itself on the brink of this fate by its own hands.
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- Belarusian Gambit: Lukashenko’s Contradictions With Russia Are Growing
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