The pincers appear to be closing.
On the one hand, Russia refused to Minsk to soften the terms of the loan for the nuclear power plant. On the other hand, the Baltic countries are close to consensus in order to block the sale of electricity from this NPP to the European Union.
Once, Aliaksandr Lukashenka gave the go-ahead for the Belarusian NPP project in order to reduce energy dependence on Russia. Like, you don’t need to buy so much gas (now 95% of the electricity in Belarus is generated from the Russian gas), and the surplus electricity will be sold to neighbors quickly as a bat out of hell.
Now, however, the fiasco of this grandiose plan is emerging in all respects.
Vilnius making fuss
Lithuania bristled from the very beginning, as the nuclear power plant is being built (almost built) near the Belarusian Astravets, 50 kilometers away from Vilnius. The Lithuanians even adopted a special law in which the BelNPP was called a threat to their national security.
And now, Lithuanian Minister of Energy Žygimantas Vaiciunas reports that a common position is being developed with the Latvian and Estonian partners “to create a plan to prevent the import of electricity generated in Belarus to the Baltic countries”.
Previously, Latvia looked like a weak link, sort of flattered by the electricity from the BelNPP, Estonia also did not exclude its purchase. But now, in the matter of counteracting exports from the Astravets NPP, the three Baltic states seem to have consolidated. On February 7, their PMs found a common language in this regard.
The boycott from the Baltic countries was the first slap in the face of Minsk. On the other hand, Moscow in a cold tone refused the request “to postpone the start of payments” in the framework of the loan for the nuclear power plant, as well as “to extend the loan term and lower the interest rate somewhat.” First Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus Dzmitry Kruty has voiced such desires recently.
“At the same time, lengthening the period of use of credit funds and reducing the interest rate does not correspond to financial theory, so we need to look for compromises in a different dimension,” said Deputy Finance Minister of the Russian Federation Sergei Storchak on February 11.
As you know, Moscow would like to get Minsk to make concessions in the plane of “deepening integration”. But Lukashenka showed some stubbornness, not wanting, as he put it, to surrender sovereignty for a barrel of oil. In addition, he told Russian partners some harsh things - such as that “they brought us to heel for hydrocarbons”, referring to the over-increasing of energy prices.
Stubbornness is good, when it comes to sovereignty. But against such background, a pose with an outstretched hand is illogical. It would be surprising if Moscow, given the current conflicts, decided to revise the terms of the loan for the BelNPP in the direction of mitigation. On the contrary, its strategy now is to make it harder for the obstinate ally, with financial and economic leverage.
This is how they “got rid of dependence”!
And now is the time to appreciate the wisdom and insight of the Belarusian leadership. They wanted the best from this nuclear power plant, but it turned out as always.
Incidentally, at the stage of selecting a contractor, Minsk considered the Franco-German Areva and the US-Japanese Westinghouse-Toshiba. But in the end, they preferred the Russian brothers. Yes, the reactor is a new model, but how well is it made?
The rapid technological degradation of Russia is visible to the naked eye. As if Belarusians need another Chernobyl.
It will be necessary to decide on the purchase of fuel for the reactor and the processing of radioactive waste with the same Russia. And where is the guarantee that in the next conflict Moscow will not press us with this dependence? See how stubborn it is with the terms of the loan. Moreover, hopes that profits from energy exports from BelNPP will help pay off are melting in the light of Vilnius' tough position.
Earlier, Moscow had already stopped giving money to refinance loans previously taken by Belarus. This means that they urgently need to scrape the treasures on the guts and, possibly, pay off the account of gold and foreign exchange reserves. The need to repay a loan taken for the nuclear power plant with interest (up to $ 10 billion) will only tighten the financial loop on the throat of Belarus.
BelNPP - the failed project
Along the way, it turned out that the Belarusian government did not have a clear plan on how to use the damn cloud of additional energy inside the country. Now they are urgently coming up with what else to transfer to electric traction. But this also costs money. Like the construction of new power lines. And a lot of associated costs. Finally, the decommissioning of the station over time will also cost an enormous amount.
Among other things, relations with Lithuania turned out to be seriously damaged for a long time. In retaliation, Vilnius is blocking the signing of the Priorities for Partnership of Belarus with the EU, which prevents the formation of an institutional framework for cooperation with a united Europe. In general, it’s a major failure at all fronts.
And the funny thing is that it was possible to reduce gas consumption even without nuclear power plants, if the Belarusian leadership had started structural restructuring of the economy in the fat years of the oil offshore. It would be enough to get rid of the ineffective monsters of the socialist industry, immeasurably devouring the very same Russian energy resources.
But Lukashenka thought extensively, in the spirit of the economy of the old days. And today he found himself in a nuclear trap.
Aliaksandr Klaskouski, Belsat