Lithuania Steps In between Belarus and EU

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko's appeals to the West to protect him against Russia have met with a response from within the European Union. Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus stated yesterday that his country is developing an oil transportation system with Belarus and Ukraine as an alternative to Russian pipelines. The new Lithuanian ambassador in Minsk, Edminas Bagdonas, handed authorities in Minsk a proposal from Vilnius that it become an intermediary in relations between Minsk and the European Union.

"We could become your advocate in Brussels and in a dialog with the EU," Bagdonas said in a cautiously-worded statement, adding that "Lithuania, as a member of the EU, supports EU policy and is waiting for specific proposals from the Belarusian side. We, as neighbors, would like to hear those proposals first."

While political relations are not expected to improve between Belarus and the EU, cooperation on energy resources may be radically transformed. Adamkus announced yesterday that an oil transportation system was being developed to bring oil from the Rotterdam exchange to his country, Ukraine and Belarus and assure independence from Russia oil supplies. He said that the terminal at the Port of Klaipeda would be reconstructed for that purpose and that Belarus and Ukraine intend to build the necessary bases and rail lines to receive the oil. "Belarus, like Ukraine, has been subjected to manipulation by Mr. Putin," Adamkus said. "The creation of a system like this guarantees against an oil blockade by Russia."

Adamkus told journalists during his earlier official visit to Washington that he discussed the construction of a system such as he described yesterday with U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman.