The Russian leadership is not going to meet halfway with the Belarusian authorities, but is getting ready for a hard confrontation. The Kremlin states openly: “It looks as if somebody has got tired of being the Belarusian president”.
It has been stated by the Russian newspaper “Kommersant” of June 15 in the article “Milk for harmful exposure” dedicated to the results of the Collective Security Treaty Organization’s Sunday’s summit and denial of the Belarusian delegation headed by Alyaksandr Lukashenka to take part in it.
“At the yesterday’s summit leaders of the seven countries, members of the CSTO, planned to demonstrate that they are able not only adopt decisions, but to execute them promptly,” the newspaper writes. “However, triumphal signing of much-publicized agreement on the collective rapid reaction force, was put in jeopardy because the row between Minsk and Moscow, which climax was the “milk war” which started a week ago.
Until very recently the Kremlin didn’t believe that A. Lukashenka would refuse to participate in the summit, at which the position of the chairman of the CSTO was to be passed to Belarus according to the "rotating presidency" system, the newspaper notes. “The leading group of Mr Lukashenka’s protocol service and security service representatives was in the Russian capital until yesterday’s morning and even looked for a suiting restaurant for a festive dinner of presidents. Inevitability of the scandal was finally realized by the Kremlin on Sunday morning, when representatives of the Belarusian delegation suddenly went home,” the newspaper writes.
“It was extremely unexpected for us. We expected the collective rapid reaction force creation to become the central issue of the summit, but instead of that everybody is concerned by one thing, why Belarusians haven’t come,” the spokesperson of the CSTO Vitaly Strugovets said. “We could expect problems from anyone, but not from Minsk”.
As the newspaper writes, “it has become clear that the CSTO, which is positioned by Russia as a key instrument of guaranteeing security in the region from Belarus to Central Asia, is vulnerable itself. And the threat to the organisation’s work lies within its members”.
The Kremlin is not going to forgive Minsk public exhibit of this weakness. “We do not have any particular hard feelings about Belarus’ behavior. It looks as if somebody has become tired of being the president of this country,” a high-ranking official of the presidential administration Dmitry Medvedev said to “Kommersant”.
“In the nearest future Moscow could start a new attack on Minsk. This time a gas attack,” the newspaper writes. “In the end of May a counselor of the Russian Embassy in Belarus on economic issues Andrei Kuznetsov stated that Belarus pays for Russian gas not fully. “Price for gas in the first quarter was to be $210 per thousand cubic metres, however, we are paid $150,” the diplomat said.
“The issue of the gas price for Belarus was discussed by Dmitry Medvedev and Alyaksandr Lukashenka back in December 2008,” “Kommersant” writes. “Then they agreed that the price would be calculated according to the following formula: the average European price with a decreasing coefficient 0.8 minus transportation costs and export duty. However, in the first quarter of 2009 Minsk “failed to notice” gas price increase from $128 to $210 per thousand cubic metres, and paid according to the previous tariff, which caused a debt to “Gazprom” of about 70 mln over the winter. In the end of March during the talks of the two presidents in Zavidovo a decision seemed to be found. Moscow allowed Minsk to pay for Russian gas at an average annual price of about $150 per thousand cubic metres, and the term of the final settlement of account was postponed till the end of the year”.
However, the newspaper underlines that the agreement remained verbal. The official representative of “Gazprom” Sergei Kupriyanov said to the newspaper yesterday, that “no additional changes have been made in the contract with Belarus this year”. Russia can use this fact as a tool for additional pressure on Minsk, demanding to follow the terms of the contract of 2006 and pay for gas deliveries every quarter.
As stated by a source in “Gazprom”, the monopoly “already has financial claims to the Belarusian side in the framework of the existing contract”.
Commenting on the possible response measures of the Belarusian side, a source close to the Russian government stated: “Pressure on us is hopeless. We are sure we are right and will go all the way”.