If it's early January, then it's time for Russia to play hardball with one of its neighbors and put a mild scare into Western Europe:
Russia has stopped shipments of oil to Belarus following a dispute about pricing, oil traders said on Monday.
The move will set off alarm bells in Europe, triggering memories of last January’s natural gas war between Russia and Ukraine that left several eastern European cities without gas for days. Oil, however, is more fungible than gas, and easily made up with alternative suppliers, so the consequences of the dispute are unlikely to be as severe....
The cut-off follows the failure of negotiations between Minsk and Moscow in the closing days of last year on new tariff arrangements for transit of Russian oil onward to Europe.
On January 1 a spokesman for the Belarus government told Interfax news agency that “unprecedented pressure” had been put on their delegation during the negotiations. Minsk called on Russia to continue supplies to Belarus under the old terms, until a new agreement could be reached.
It warned that Russian demands would violate a customs union agreement signed last year by Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan, and “would undermine all agreements reached on the further integration of our states”.
The dispute is likely to present an?obstacle to closer ties between the two countries. Belarus is virtually Russia’s only ally among former Soviet republics.
In this bilateral relationship, Belarus is Charlie Brown to Russia's Lucy. Every time the Belarusian government believes it has embedded Russia into an institution that affords it some protection, Russia pulls away the football.
Belarus' geostrategic problem is that its a buffer state with no natural ally, no natural resources, and a human rights situation that is so God-awful that no one in the West likes the country very much.