Belarus threatens to cut off EU gas supply due to border dispute

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Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko met with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Moscow Kremlin on September 9, 2021.

Mikhail Voskresensky | Kremlin Sputnik | Via Reuters

If the European Union imposes sanctions on the immigration crisis on its western border, Belarus threatens to cut off its gas supply to Europe.

The European Union accused Russia-backed President Alexander Lukashenko of weaponizing thousands of people currently gathering in frozen camps on the Polish border in order to undermine EU security and disperse domestic political pressure. Belarus denies this accusation.

According to reports, as the European Union prepares for a new round of sanctions, Lukashenko said at an emergency cabinet meeting on Thursday that the country may cut off Russia’s Yamal-Europe pipeline, which puts further pressure on European leaders. , Because the European continent is still affected by international sanctions. energy crisis.

According to reports, strongman leaders who have been in power since 1994 told cabinet ministers: “We heat Europe and they still threaten us to close the border.”

“If we cut off [the transit of] Natural gas for them? Therefore, I suggest that the leadership of Poland, Lithuania, and other brainless people think twice before speaking. “

After Lukashenko’s comments, natural gas prices soared by nearly 7% on Thursday.

Most immigrants are from Syria, Yemen and Iraq. Belarusian national airline Belarusian Airlines said on Friday that it will stop allowing citizens of these three countries to board flights from Turkey to Belarus at the request of the Turkish authorities.

There are reports that Belavia may meet EU sanctions, while others question whether they can expand their scope to combat Russian Aeroflot or Turkish Airlines.

In a joint statement, the EU member states of the United Nations Security Council, as well as the United States, the United Kingdom, and Albania condemned “Belarus’s instrumentalization of human beings who put life and well-being at risk for political purposes, with the aim of destabilizing neighboring countries. And the EU’s external borders, and divert attention from its own growing human rights violations.”

Edge policy or a real upgrade?

Experts are divided on whether Minsk’s provocative tone will translate into drastic policy actions, which largely depends on the strategic focus of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Lukashenko’s long-time ally.

Timothy Ash, senior emerging market sovereign strategist at Bluebay Asset Management, said the situation “looks like it will escalate further.”

“Putin will be very happy to see the interruption of energy transportation through Belarus because he can blame Lukashenko and put further pressure on Europe,” Ash said in an email on Thursday.

“This will also give him an excuse to formally intervene in Belarus itself-Russian aircraft now seem to be patrolling to ensure the security of the border between Belarus and NATO.”

Belarus, November 12th-Thousands of illegal immigrants are facing a desperate situation. They continue to wait at the border between Poland and Belarus, hoping to cross EU territory.

Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Ashe added that the current direction of travel “feels a bit like the slow motion action of the actual conflict in Europe.”

The Ministry of Defense of Belarus stated that two Russian strategic bombers were also performing training missions over Belarus on Thursday.

“Let them scream and squeak. Yes, those are bombers with nuclear capabilities, but we have no choice,” Lukashenko reportedly said on Thursday.

He pointed out that the Belarusian Ministry of Defense and Border Forces, as well as national security agencies, have deployed “to ensure control of NATO and Polish forces.”

According to a report from the Belarusian government, the president said: “You can already see 15,000 soldiers, tanks, armored vehicles, helicopters and planes being brought to our border without any warning.”

However, Emre Pekel, head of the European team of the political consulting firm Eurasia Group, said that due to income restrictions and possible opposition from Russia, Lukashenko is “very unlikely” to implement the threat of disrupting the flow of natural gas to Europe.

“Russia relies on transportation through Belarus to meet European contracts. The closure of the pipeline will damage Gazprom’s long-term market position and exacerbate Russia’s concerns about the stability of natural gas supply,” Peck said.

“Stopping the flow of natural gas will also cost Lukashenko about 300 million U.S. dollars in transit income each year, which Belarus cannot afford.”

Peker pointed out that this figure is equivalent to the economic blow that the EU imposed on Belarusian oil and potash exports in June, and “will greatly exceed the possible impact of the EU’s new sanctions.”

He also said that diplomatic, commercial and legal challenges will prevent the European Union from imposing sanctions on Aeroflot and Turkish Airlines, but Brussels may strike Belarus and impose quick penalties on Belarus.

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