The EU member insists on sanctions against Belarus that the US does not even force partners to impose.
Written by Paul Antonopoulos, independent geopolitical analyst
The Port of Klaipėda is not obliged to refuse the transit of Belarusian fertilizers, yet Lithuanian authorities are searching for formal reasons to destroy businesses that do not comply with their “values policy”. It is another demonstration that they would rather serve the interests of Washington instead of their own citizens.
Belaruskali, one of Belarus’ largest state-owned companies and one of the largest producers of potash fertilizers in the world, is facing restrictions from Lithuania despite the Baltic country not needing to follow these specific US sanctions against Belarus. Referring to the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the United States (OFAC), the general director of Lithuanian Railways, Mantas Bartuška, confirmed that Klaipėda port is not obliged to refuse the transit of Belarusian fertilizers.
Despite this confirmation though, Lithuanian Minister of Transport and Communications Marius Skuodis announced the removal of Belarusian fertilizers from the port, something that will prove to be problematic for Belarus in the short to medium term considering it is a landlocked country and the Lithuanian port is its most direct access to the world’s seaways.
Skuodis said last month that: “European sanctions are clear, but there is a lot of discussion on the US sanctions. In addition, a lot can change in one day, the US and the EU can impose new sanctions if nothing changes in our neighbourhood. (…) Sanctions were not imposed for the sake of sanctions. The [Alexander Lukashenko] regime just needs to change its behaviour and the transit that took place between our countries and in general can continue.”
Bartuška also received confirmation from the US that the Port of Klaipėda should not fear US sanctions for cooperating with Belaruskali.
“During the conversation, we were assured and explained that in the current volume of sanctions, if the American do not participate in the supply chain, the sanctions will not work,” Bartuška said.
Skuodis visited the US in early October and consulted with the Americans about sanctions against Belaruskali. He would have received the same information as Bartuška, that there is no reason for Lithuania to stop serving as a port for Belarus as the sanctions only apply to American companies.
It leads to the question on why many elements in the Lithuanian state are insisting on imposing sanctions against Belaruskali. Baltic News Service (BNS) suggested that it is naive to believe that banks will refuse to accept payments for Belarusian fertilizers in the port of Klaipeda when they are trying to preserve their reputation as the Lithuanian economy is struggling.
None-the-less, the Lithuanian government is blindly going down the path of destroying businesses involved in the transportation of Belarusian fertilizers. The ruling conservative government in Vilnius claims that this issue is a matter of principle and that the potential negative impact on the country’s economy is insignificant.
It is recalled that Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda publicly stated several months ago that he doubted the effectiveness of possible transit sanctions against Belaruskali, especially as it would ultimately benefit Russian ports in the Baltic Sea. The public acknowledgement that sanctions will likely be ineffective in the long-term against Belaruskali, but yet still insisting on pushing ways to sanction the company, demonstrates that the Lithuanian government is not prioritizing the interests of its citizens, but rather trying to please Washington by going even further than what is expected in their anti-Lukashenko campaign.
Eurostat estimates that Lithuania has experienced the highest inflation in the euro area – 9.3% – from November 2020 to November 2021. This has turned attention to the effects that rising costs have had on recent pay rises and savings. Unfortunately for Lithuanians, the situation will not improve anytime soon as economists expect inflation in Lithuania to stay high until at least mid-2022.
Lithuania not only suffers from the highest inflation in the euro area, but its economy is also stagnant, unemployment and criminality remains high, and the COVID-19 pandemic is still running rife. Despite these significant social issues, Lithuania has prioritized a provocation campaign against not only Belarus, but also Russia and China. Such a hostile policy against neighbouring countries and Great Powers is to Lithuania’s own economic disadvantage, a curious policy to adopt when citizens are suffering.
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