Posted: 16.05.2024 14:18:07

Global clash

The West has made every effort to cut off Belarus from global trade routes having blocked the road to seaports, imposed a ban for foreign companies on flight connection with our country, and closed border crossings for vehicles from the side of some neighbouring states. However, Belarus has managed to replace the dropped out commodity channels within the framework of the Union State.

The struggle for control over logistics corridors is escalating

Jebel Ali Port in the Emirate of Dubai, UAE         

                                  The President of Belarus,
                             Aleksandr Lukashenko,

“Special attention should be paid to the development of transportation through seaports. We should also continue the work on building efficient transport and logistics chains in the eastern direction. We need new routes in order to expand trade, and a further upgrade of transport infrastructure is required.”

At the meeting of the Council of Ministers,
on March 10th, 2023

Broken chains

The ways of delivering goods have traditionally determined the level of economic development. Poor road quality, the lack of access to the sea, the dominance of bandits sharply slowed down trade and did not provide opportunities for advancement. Therefore, rulers paid the utmost attention to the protection of their roads and sea lines of communication.  
Nothing has fundamentally changed in this approach so far. It is important not only who produces what kind of goods, but also who controls the logistics corridors. Recent events in the global economy have indicated massive disruptions in the established system of global delivery of goods and services. It is worth taking into account the destructive actions of some powers, damage to the Red Sea undersea cables that deeply affected the internet service provision, the explosion that disrupted the Nord Stream gas pipeline, sabotage against port infrastructure and overpasses. 
The DAVOS 2024 economic forum on navigating global business challenges has shown that owners of key global corporations consider the destruction of supply chains for critical goods and raw materials and the interruption of global food supply chains to be among the most likely threats for the international economy. 
This year, in particular, such threats have already manifested themselves in the form of attacks by Yemen’s Houthis in the Red Sea on commercial vessels of western companies as a response to Israel’s military operations in the Gaza Strip. Such attacks have already become systemic in nature and are aimed not only at merchant ships. Thus, it became known on April 7th that Houthis launched drones to attack US Navy ships in the Red Sea, and also hit the British ship MV Hope Island. They also carried out operations against two Israeli commercial ships MSC Grace F in the Indian Ocean and MSC Gina in the Arabian Sea with anti-ship missiles. In January 2024, the US media reported that Iranian Navy ships that may be somehow connected with Houthis were located in the Gulf of Aden close to the grouping of US Navy ships. 

Stop sign

The situation in the area of the key transport artery — the Suez Canal and the Red Sea — continued to heat up in the first quarter of 2024. At the end of March, a Russian Navy detachment consisting of the Varyag missile cruiser and the Marshal Shaposhnikov frigate entered the Red Sea as part of the long-range sea campaign. Earlier, Houthis had informed China and Russia about the possibility for their vessels to sail through the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden without being attacked.
However, the situation extremely aggravated after the Israeli Air Force had carried out an airstrike and destroyed the Iranian consulate in Damascus on April 1st and Tehran had subsequently taken an act of retaliation against Israel in the form of a massive missile and UAV attack. On the same day, Iranian special forces seized the MSC ARIES container ship near the Strait of Hormuz. The Portuguese-flagged ship is related to Zodiac Maritime, which is part of Zodiac Group owned by Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer. The special forces troops rappelled onto the vessel from a helicopter, after which the ship was transferred to the territorial waters of Iran.  
Against this backdrop, the United States urgently moved warships to positions to protect Israel and American forces in the region, hoping to prevent a direct Iranian attack on Israel. The United States also redeployed two destroyers, one of which was already stationed in the region. It is known that at least one of the ships is equipped with an Aegis ballistic missile defence system.
Further escalation of the situation in the Red Sea may put a stop sign on the key logistics corridor of the global economy — the Suez Canal — which will inevitably block goods supplies from the Asia–Pacific (APAC) region to Europe. 
Attacks by Yemeni Houthis on merchant ships in the Red Sea have already led to an overload of Jebel Ali Port in the UAE, the world’s tenth largest seaport, which affected the speed of cargo handling operations. The average time of sea delivery of goods from the UAE to Europe has almost doubled — from 20 to 55 days.

Multifunctional marine transshipment complex Bronka — a new deep-water port of St. Petersburg 

Support ports

NATO’s activity in the Baltic and Black Seas, as well as the situation in Ukraine — first a series of Maidan protests [the mass anti-government uprising in the centre of Kiev that resulted in coup d’état] and then military actions since 2014 — are also elements that have undermined Russia’s and Belarus’ trade routes to supply our goods to foreign markets. 
Back in 1912, Russian writer and military intelligence officer Aleksei Vandam wrote in his treatise Our Position that access to the seas is a continuation of internal roads while the absence of access to the sea significantly hinders the development of industry and takes away the source of wealth from people through impossibility of delivering products abroad.
The closure of the port infrastructure for Belarusian goods and products by the Baltic States after 2020 as instructed by Washington should also be considered as an attempt to strangle Belarusian trade and, therefore, our country. 
The current problems at the border with significant queues of trucks are, among other things, elements of fierce competition on the part of western corporations — this is how they try to restrain the flow of goods to their market, which is in fact a distorted form of protectionism. 
However, sanctions and Western pressure have failed to splinter Belarusian ties with trading partners thanks to the support of the Russian Federation and the development of its Northern Sea Route (NSR) [the shortest shipping route between the western part of Eurasia and the APAC region].
During the recent talks, the President of Belarus has expressed gratitude to the Russian leader for providing Belarus with access to the port infrastructure of the Russian Federation, including in St. Petersburg and Murmansk.
“I appreciate your support on the ports. We are working, we are looking into other ports. The Russian ports are helping us to ship products. In a word, there is no such thing as goods being neglected or left unattended making us unable to ship them. We have already shipped goods along the Northern Sea Route. Several thousand tonnes have already been delivered. It is very convenient for our manufacturers. Therefore, your support in this regard has been very important and relevant for us,” Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasised.
In May 2023, Belarus’ Prime Minister Roman Golovchenko inspected the port area in Murmansk. Two months ago, Belarus’ Minister of Transport and Communications stated that our country had decided to build port facilities in Murmansk. There have been offered three possible sites for the construction of a terminal. The issue of building specifically our own Belarusian port is under consideration. 
Global players are actively trying to control logistics corridors and block them for their competitors. Nevertheless, Belarus in liaison with Russia has its own trade routes and, despite the attempts of unfriendly countries, is not affected by external interference.

Murmansk Commercial Seaport

By Aleksei Avdonin, analyst at Belarusian Institute for Strategic Research (BISR)