Belarus increases debt for gas to Russia
In the third quarter of 2011 Belarus owes Russia about $ 140 million for delivered gas and expects to pay for it $ 245 instead of $ 280. The increased debt to Gazprom is one of the ways to artificially reduce the foreign currency demand at the foreign exchange, and to postpone further devaluation of the ruble.
The Beltransgaz requested the Gazprom to defer payments for the third quarter of 2011 gas deliveries and to pay $ 245 per c.m. (the price applied to the second quarter of 2011) with the contract price for the third quarter of $ 279. During the third quarter of 2011 4.231 billion cubic meters of gas have been delivered to Belarus, therefore the underpayment is about $ 140 million.
Against the background of long discussions about the draft socio-economic development plan and 2012 budget negotiations the Belarusian government has not dared to name the target price of gas for the next year. As a result, preliminary price has been voiced by the Russian Ambassador to Belarus Alexander Surikov: USD 180 per c.m. He noted, however, that the gas price had not yet been finalized.
The increased debt to Gazprom is one of the ways to artificially reduce the demand for foreign currency at the foreign exchange, and to postpone further devaluation of the ruble. In the short term, this policy is effective, but in the long run has two problems: 1) the proceeds from the privatization of Beltransgaz will be swallowed by the accumulated debt, and 2) the new lower price of gas has not yet been confirmed by the Russian leadership, potentially it could be an unpleasant surprise for the financial authorities of the country.
Over the past year, military-political relations between Minsk and Kyiv have become complicated. Due to their high inertia and peculiarities, this downward trend would be extremely difficult to overcome.
The root cause of the crisis is the absence of a common political agenda in the Belarusian-Ukrainian relations. Minsk is looking for a market for Belarusian exports in Ukraine and offers its services as a negotiation platform for the settlement of the Russo-Ukrainian war, thereby hoping to avoid political issues in the dialogue with Kiev. Meanwhile, Ukraine is hoping for political support from Minsk in the confrontation with Moscow. In addition, Ukraine’s integration with NATO presupposes her common position with the Alliance in relation to Belarus. The NATO leadership regards the Belarusian Armed Forces as an integral part of the Russian military machine in the western strategic front (the Baltic states and Poland). In addition, the ongoing military reform in Ukraine envisages a reduction in the number of generals and the domestic political struggle makes some Ukrainian top military leaders targets in politically motivated attacks.
Hence, the criticism of Belarus coming from Ukrainian military leadership is dictated primarily by internal and external political considerations, as well as by the need to protect the interests of generals, and only then by facts.
For instance, initially, the Ukrainian military leadership made statements about 100,000 Russian servicemen allegedly taking part in the Russo-Belarusian military drill West-2017. Then the exercises were labelled quazi-open and military observers from Ukraine refused to provide their assessment, which caused a negative reaction in Minsk. Further, without citing specific facts, it was stated that Russia was building up its military presence in Belarus.
Apparently, the Belarusian and Ukrainian Defence Ministries have entangled in a confrontational spiral (on the level of rhetoric). Moreover, only a small part of the overly hidden process has been disclosed. That said, third states are very likely to take advantage of the situation (or have already done so). This is not only about Russia.
The Belarusian Defence Ministry officials are restrained in assessing their Ukrainian counterparts. However, such a restraint is not enough. Current military-political relations between Belarus and Ukraine are unlikely to stabilise without the intervention of both presidents.