1 Feb, 2020
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has offered to cover all Belarus oil needs with American product at competitive prices. The sales pitch comes after Belarus lost access to low price crude from Russia.
The top US diplomat is visiting Minsk on Saturday to court its longtime leader, President Aleksandr Lukashenko. Belarus is currently struggling to replace Russian crude, which it had imported for years at low prices to refine and resell at a considerable premium. Pompeo seized the opportunity to offer American supplies as an alternative.
“The United States wants to help Belarus build its own sovereign country. Our energy producers stand ready to deliver 100 percent of the oil you need at competitive prices,” Pompeo said at a meeting with Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei.
The oil row between Belarus and Russia is about a change in taxation introduced by Moscow a few years ago, which came into full power this year. It resulted in a hike of crude price for Belarusian refineries, which Minsk feels is unfair. The Belarusian government is currently exploring ways to replace Russian oil with an alternative, but it remains unclear if a better option is available even after the price change, considering the logistics of supplies.
Last year Belarus imported some 17.6 billion of crude, all of it from Russia. In the past it experimented with diversifying its supplies turning to Azerbaijan, Venezuela and Iran at different occasions. The Russian product proved more competitive however.
During Pompeo’s visit to Belarus the two countries have agreed to exchange ambassadors, after the posts remained vacant for ten years. Pompeo has insisted that the thaw in US-Belarus relations has nothing to do with Russia, but is solely about improving “diplomacy” between Washington and Minsk.