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Lithuanian-Belarusian alliance opposes Russia

The gas conflict between Vilnius and Gazprom is mounting acquiring new political features. The other day the Lithuanian government demanded dismissal of Lietuvos dujos executive board members Valery Golubev and Kirill Seleznev, who are also Gazprom top managers. The Lithuanian side referred to the conflict of interests (the managers simultaneously represent the buyer and the seller of gas) and threatened to appeal to the court against the current management of Lietuvos dujos. Meanwhile, attempts to complain against Gazprom to the European Commission continue, which in fact is an attempt to spur activities of EU supranational bodies on liberalizing the gas market on the basis of accelerated introduction of the Third Energy Package norms.

As far as new political features are concerned, it is about demonstration of direct support by Vilnius to the regime of Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko. According to statements made by Lithuanian head of state Dalia Grybauskaite at the recent Munich security conference, the EU "may not dictate to any nation what particular regime or which particular leader it should select or elect. This also applies to Egypt and Belarus". It is very advantageous for Lukashenko and his closest companions, who have been recently subjected to sanctions by the EU for "specific" conduct of presidential elections in the republic, to have such an advocate in Europe. This provides new arguments to bargain with Russia.

And the matter may be not only in the importance of transit of commodities through Belarus and Lithuania for the economy of the latter and not only in the personality of Grybauskaite. However, the politician hit the headlines in November 2009 saying she considered Alexander Lukashenko "a guarantor of stability in Belarus and confirmation there will be no Russia in this country on the Lithuanian border". It is quite possible that Lithuania's position towards Lukashenko is just the beginning of a new phase of flirting of the West with the Belarusian leader. The EU's logic is similar to that of Russia - "there is no one else" to work with. The EU and the USA cannot oust Lukashenko, the Belarusian opposition is weak and not united; thus, there is no alternative. Meanwhile, Moscow and Brussels still perceive each other as competitors for influence on the post-Soviet area especially in its western part. So, attempts to involve Minsk in different political and energy programs to spite Moscow are quite possible in the near future - as soon as the European public forgets the scandal with whom they call "the last dictator in Europe" and who will again miraculously turn into a potential partner.

By Stanislav Mitrakhovich, NESF leading expert

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