Few countries have voiced support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and even fewer have dared to provide material support to Russia except Belarus, neighbor and trading partner to both Russia and Ukraine. Belarus’ involvement has thus attracted sanctions that are having a significant impact on its exports
Overview of Belarusian Exports
Belarus exports over $12 billion in refined petroleum, potash fertilizers, cheese, trucks, and tractors to Russia. This accounts for roughly half of exports and could have been a lifeline in the face of Western sanctions, except Russia's economy is also being squeezed. Western countries are hoping that the Russian economy will be unable to sustain Belarus.
The Effect of Previous Sanctions
Even before the war, Belarus had already been the target of European Union (EU) and US sanctions following President Alexander Lukashenko’s crackdown on protests after the country’s 2020 presidential elections. Those earlier sanctions targeted individuals and organizations that aided Lukashenko's retention of power. Recent sanctions have widened the scope to include Belarusian exports. The EU has placed a ban on wood, timber, steel, and iron, which make up 40% of Belarusian exports to the trading bloc. Cement, rubber, fuels, and potash fertilizer have also been banned.
The North American Market
Belarus' exports to North America are not huge, but they do account for a significant portion of machinery, tools, chemical, and textile exports. As a result, the country runs the risk of losing that market or having to find new buyers. The US, along with the Swiss and the EU, has imposed sanctions on financial assets and routes through which Belarus can access capital, loans, and financial services via the SWIFT payment platform or other channels.
Transporting Belarusian Exports
Apart from Russia, Belarus' landlocked neighbors such as Lithuania, which opposes its role alongside Russia, are important routes through which Belarusian exports are distributed. Belarusian potash transport has been halted by Lithuanian Railways. With no peaceful agreement in sight, transporting Belarusian exports across land and sea will become increasingly difficult.
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