Russo-Belarusian gas and oil dispute unlikely to end soon
In December 2016, Belarus made an advance payment in repayment of the debt for natural gas supplies in 2016. The debt emerged because Belarus paid a lower price for the natural gas supply as compared with the contract price (USD 136.9 per 1000 cubic metres). In response, Russia unilaterally cut oil supplies as of July 2016, from 2 to 1.2 million tons of oil per month. Nevertheless, Russia is unlikely to resume oil supplies in full volume before the end of 2016. Belarus is unable to repay the debt for gas in full without additional borrowing. In order to solve the problem, the Finance Ministry and the National Bank are likely to issue foreign currency bonds worth at least USD 350 million.
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.