Lower gas prices for Belarus will strengthen Russian rouble influence in Belarus
According to preliminary information, Russian natural gas price might change for Belarus from USD 132 per 1 cubic metre to USD 100 per cubic metre and payment would be due in Russian roubles. Belarus has stopped paying for natural gas deliveries due to her disagreement with the price for gas and the dollar component of the gas transit through Russia, which did not depend on the current prices for hydrocarbons. Belarus’ current overdue payments for gas make USD 300 million. In the near future, this issue is likely to be resolved and oil supplies to Belarus are likely to resume in full. However, Belarus is likely to become more dependent on Russian rouble exchange rate fluctuations against foreign currencies, as she makes payments in Russian roubles. After the new gas price is agreed, energy prices for industrial enterprises are likely to be revised too in order to reduce costs of energy-intensive industries.
The Belarusian authorities regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.
Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.
Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.
In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.