As if the energy sector needed any more volatility than it's already experiencing, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has thrown his hat in the ring by commenting this week that he could shut down transit of energy products if Poland closes its border with his country.
The border is currently turning into a point of contention between the European Union and Lukashenko. Thousands of migrants are stuck in the middle of the border and at least 11 have died, according to the Wall Street Journal. The migrants are seeking refuge and to move further into Europe. The EU has blamed Lukashenko for using the migrants as "pawns", while Lukashenko attests that something should be done about the humanitarian crisis.
Lukashenko has now escalated tensions over the crisis by indicating he is "serious" about halting energy products from Russia.
“You should think about how you will buy fuels from Russia,” he said in an interview this week, according to Bloomberg.
“Listen, when I’m being strangled by the Poles or whoever, will I look at some contracts? Come on, what are you talking about?” he continued.
The WSJ wrote about the crisis:
Belarus and Poland are on the front lines of a geopolitical standoff between Russia, Belarus’s closest ally, and the West. Poland says Belarus is using thousands of migrants camped on its border in a new type of war aimed at provoking clashes and sowing division among EU member states. The Belarusian military has tried to tear down the spools of barbed wire that Poland has used to fence off the border, according to the Polish Border Guard, which has also accused Belarus of equipping migrants with tear gas.
Wedged between EU nations and Russia, Belarus has long been known as “Europe’s last dictatorship,” whose leader for the last quarter century, Mr. Lukashenko, held a firm grip on social and political life. Mass protests broke out in 2020, prompting security forces to crack down and leading Europe to respond with sanctions.
Now the tensions between Europe and Belarus are exploding as thousands of people from Iraq, Syria and other poor and war-torn countries try to cross from Belarus into Poland, their first step into the EU.
As we noted earlier this morning, Lukashenko has also (again) announced his country stands ready to host nuclear weapons provided by Russia on its territory. "We are ready for this on the territory of Belarus," Lukashenko told Russia's RIA news agency in an interview published Tuesday.
Lukashenko held it out as the necessary response in the scenario where NATO would deploy nuclear systems to neighboring Poland. The Belarusian president said he will soon propose this plan to Putin.