According to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Russia has suggested offering favorable oil deals in exchange for a unified state. For roughly two decades, Moscow and Minsk have been discussing the possibility of forming such a union, though with no success.

Recent developments have shown growing cracks in their relations.

Following the failure to agree on a new energy deal during a meeting between Lukashenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russia has reduced its oil exports to its neighboring state. In January 2020, Belarus had hoped for two million tonnes of crude oil for its refineries but received merely 500,000 tonnes.

In response, Lukashenko has threatened to siphon off Russian oil, destined to the European Union, which travels through Belarusian territory. In addition, the traditional ally of Russia has even engaged in talks with its neighbor Poland about possibly importing American and Saudi gas that arrives at Gdansk.

Simultaneously, Russia has been seeking to diversify its gas delivery routes to Europe. In addition to direct overland routes that include Ukraine and Belarus, the Kremlin has been developing NordStream 2 via the Baltic Sea as well as TurkStream across southern Europe.

Belarus is arguably Russia’s closest ally in Europe. Citizens of the two states can visit and live in each other countries without visas. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Belarus largely retained its Soviet-era government structures, with its intelligence agency still called the KGB. During the Lukashenko-Putin era, their countries have maintained close economic relations, in the form of, for example, the Eurasian Economic Union; they also hold numerous joint military exercises.

Despite the existence of the Eurasian Economic Union there have been continued efforts to enact further integration. Key among these are issues relating to a shared common currency. However, progress has been slow.

The past few years have seen growing resistance from the Belarusian side. As early as 2010, Lukashenko lamented the withdrawal of Soviet-era nuclear weapons from his country, calling it a “major mistake.”