Belarus and Russia have incompatible “nuclear” interests
Belarus and Russia once again managed to successfully reconcile almost 28 allied sectoral programs (previously roadmaps). However, some extremely important programs do not align again. The “Belarusian issue” was raised during a meeting between Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel.
Further to a meeting with Lukashenka on August 17th, Prime Minister of Belarus Mikalai Snapkou stated that the integration package was almost fully aligned and coordinated between the Belarusian and Russian governments. This package, according to Snapkou, includes 28 sectoral programs approved by the Union Council of Ministers and the Supreme Council of the Union State.
“In the course of the negotiations, core interests of each party soon emerged,” BelTA quoted the prime minister: “For Russians, these are issues of tax and customs regulation, that is, transparency, traceability of goods across their territory. For us - the terms of cooperation in the energy sector and access to the Russian market. In the entire package of economic integration agreements, the main difficulty during the negotiations was the interconnection of these mutual interests. “
It turns out that it took the parties almost three years (according to Snapkou) to identify the core of each other’s interests. But to what extent have these “nuclear” interests been identified? So, for example, the Russian side may well not consider that the issues of tax and customs regulation are easily converted into issues of “fair” prices for energy resources, which Lukashenka does not get tired of repeating. Within each category of issues to be agreed, there is a group of subcategories, each of which will require a series of agreements, exchanges and concessions.
Take, say, the sore point of gas pricing. Belarus is one of the largest consumers of Gazprom’s products in the world (2nd place in 2019). The Russian monopoly would like to be not only a seller but at the same time a buyer of gas on the Belarusian market.
Currently, Gazprom supplies gas to its subsidiary Gazprom Transgaz Belarus (based on an intergovernmental agreement), and the latter supplies gas to the regional gas supplying organisations of the Beltopgaz State Production Association, which, in turn, sell gas to end consumers - already with VAT and a surcharge. The Russian monopoly would like to penetrate to the last level - to gain access to the country’s gas distribution networks, i.e. to end consumers. At the same time, Gazprom guarantees a reduction in gas prices for consumers. The Russian side likes to call it “through price” or “price without any exemptions”.
This proposal was sent to Minsk several times and predictably was not accepted. Therefore, the journey to the “single energy market” is still a long one.
The gas issue, meanwhile, was raised during a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on August 20th. And also - the “Belarusian question”. In particular, Ms Merkel raised the issue of migrants and condemned the use of humans as hybrid weapons.