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Expert: New gas conflict between Russia and Belarus inevitable

A new gas conflict appears to be inevitable, as Gazprom Transgaz Belarus files a claim over underpayments for the consumed gas by Belarusian companies. Economist Vasily Koltashov told EADaily on May 4 that it will be hard for the Belarusian economy that is experiencing crisis to cover the debts. A new conflict is inevitable unless Moscow makes concessions.

“I think a conflict is actually inevitable, because the problems of the Belarusian economy are just increasing. Although Belarus seeks to keep its good relations with Russia, it fails to repay its debts regularly. The enterprises have owed to Russia and have no money to cover their debts. The sales volumes of the Belarusian companies in Russia, the key market for Belarus, have shrunk,” Koltashov said.

In his words, development of industry and agriculture in Belarus needs a growing Russian market, which is unfortunately stagnating now. “Therefore, Belarus needs either to cut production and, consequently, consumption of the Russian energy resources, or search for new markets and develop new products,” the economist explained.

Belarus has faced a serious challenge, Koltashov said, and to meet it, Minsk may need new talks with Moscow. However, the Minsk’s ‘flirting’ with the European Union have affected Alexander Lukashenko’s relations with Russia.

The economist believes that one of the “soft options” to settle the problem is an opportunity for the Russian corporations to buy Belarusian enterprises i.e. making package investments in Belarus. “Lukashenko may refuse to provide such an opportunity to Russian companies. However, recently he had to do such things that Lukashenko of 1990s would hardly do.  He has to survive in conditions of the global neoliberal capitalism and to try to maintain his industrial economy in the low saturated domestic market,” Koltashov said for conclusion.

In addition, the economist does not rule out that if the gas conflict between Moscow and Minsk escalates, the EU will try to interfere in it by promising preferences and concessions to Lukashenko.

EADaily reported earlier that Gazprom’s subsidiary, Gazprom Transgaz Belarus, filed a claim in the Arbitration Court of Belarus over underpayment for gas consumption by the Belarusian enterprises, Vladimir Semashko, Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus said on May 3. He believes that the Belarusian economic entities are eligible to pay a lower price for gas comparing the one set by Gazprom.

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