Pompeo tours former Soviet republics
In recent days, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has visited US ally Ukraine, but also Belarus, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, all known as faithful allies of Moscow, offering US support all round. Commentators ask how much diplomatic headway the US can make against Russia with this initiative.
A clear and positive signal
Pompeo's trip to a series of former Soviet republics shows that the US is unwilling to surrender the field to the Russians, comments former Ukrainian foreign minister Vladimir Ogrysko in Novoye Vremya:
“It is an attempt by US diplomacy to let these countries know that they can count on its aid and support as long as they are prepared to make a gradual transition to civilised forms of government in their societies and countries. ... [The Americans] are beginning to understand that otherwise, Vladimir Putin's dream of restoring the USSR will become reality. I am delighted that the Americans are finally waking up to the idea - unlike our western European partners and in particular the PACE [Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe], which still seems to be convinced that it can win over Russia or even sympathise with it. ”
Will Belarus soon get its oil from the US?
Ria Novosti analyses Pompeo's visit to Belarus at a time of increased tension between Moscow and Minsk.
“In a situation like this, it is only logical for the US secretary of state to hold out the carrot for a 'westward shift'. This is exactly what Pompeo has done in highlighting the readiness of US producers to cover the country's energy demands '100 percent' - at, he was quick to qualify, competitive prices. But this is exactly where the difference to Russia lies, because the Belarussian leadership is hoping to get anything but market prices from its Russian colleagues. ... It remains to be seen how appealing such promises are for Lukashenko, and the same goes for Pompeo's amorphous words about progress on lifting US sanctions [against Belarus] - at some point in the future.”
Ties to Moscow far too binding
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius is also visiting Belarus from the 3rd to the 5th of February. Vytis Jurkonis, a lecturer in international relations at the University of Vilnius, is dismissive of both attempts at improving relations:
“All this strengthens the independence and sovereignty of Belarus only if Minsk is prepared not just to talk about threats, but actually to do something. But at present such examples are vastly outnumbered by its efforts to raise its standing in the eyes of the Kremlin ... . The bad news for Minsk is that once all your trust points have been used up, you won't get a similar opportunity for some time. The good news for the West is that the price of this 'new attempt' is not particularly high, and we can at least say that Minsk had its chance.”