Belarus thinks being closely related countries with a common Rus’ origin Russia should keep cheap oil coming. Russia in turn thinks if Minsk is so brotherly it should get on with the program of closer ties it signed on two decades ago but never implemented
In just the month of December 2018, Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Alyaksandr Lukashenka of Belarus met three times: in St. Petersburg on the 6th (see EDM, December 12, 2018) and in Moscow on the 25th and 29th. On the two last occasions, they negotiated over various economic and political matters for more than three hours. No official statement has been issued aside from an agreement to create a joint taskforce on the Russia-Belarus Union State.
To be sure, as early as December 14, during his traditional (14th) meeting with Russian journalists (80 journalists from 44 Russian regions), Lukashenka accused the Kremlin of a willingness to annex Belarus in exchange for cheap oil (EaDaily, December 14, 2018). He pledged to develop ties with Russia while being vigilant of its attempts to deprive Belarus of sovereignty. This statement was made on the heels of the meeting of Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev with his Belarusian counterpart, Sergei Rumas, in Brest (Sputnik.by, December 13, 2018).
Not only did the two heads of government fail to sign the seemingly finalized agreement on mutual recognition of visas issued to citizens of third countries (see EDM, December 5, 2018), but Medvedev also declared that further financial support for Belarus will only be delivered once key provisions of the 1999 Union State agreement between Russia and Belarus are implemented.
These include a single currency, joint customs, and a shared audit chamber. Labeled “Medvedev’s ultimatum” in the media, this declaration led to an escalation of mutual rhetoric. For example, Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov suggested that Russia had never promised to compensate Belarus for its so-called oil “tax maneuver,” which makes Russian oil vastly more expensive for Belarus (see EDM, September 11, 2018). He added that Belarus continues to smuggle banned European foods into Russia, that Belarus’s pricing on cigarettes deprives Russian producers of profits, and that, overall, Moscow has lost trust in Belarus (RIA Novosti,