The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Saturday that the United States is willing and able to provide Belarus with 100% of its oil and gas.
Pompeo is the first secretary of state to visit Belarus in 26 years and arrived in Minsk amid new tensions between Minsk and Moscow over energy. In a meeting with authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko, Pompeo said he 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."
At the end of December, Russia and Belarus were unable to reach an agreement on the terms for oil transit. Moscow has stopped deliveries as of January 1, and Minsk temporarily suspended its oil products exports, although this was resumed by mid January. Lukashenko said that if Russia makes its oil too expensive, Belarus will be forced to look for alternative supplies, including the reverse transit of Saudi or US oil through Poland.
In mid January, Belarusian First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Krutoy said that Minsk considers it inexpedient to continue overpaying Russian companies for oil, and is looking for suppliers in other countries. It was later learned that Belarus had bought 80,000 tons of oil from Norway, and that Lukashenko had instructed the government to sign a supply contract with Kazakhstan.
In mid December, Belarusian Finance Ministry Maksim Yermolovich signed an agreement to take an urgent 3.5 billion yuan loan (around $500 million) from the Shanghai branch of the China Development Bank. Previously it was reported that Belarus had requested such a loan from Russia, but had failed to reach an agreement.