Interview with Kirill Koktysh
Russia Today: Considering what happened earlier this year, when Gazprom cut gas supplies to Belarus, and several European countries were cut short of gas supplies, how can the company guarantee the same situation will not happen this time around?
Kirill Koktysh: The situation with gas supplies to Belarus is quite different from the situation with gas supplies to Ukraine and is also different from oil transportation through Belarus's territory. While almost all oil pipelines going through Belarus's territory are irreplaceable, gas pipelines are essential only for gas supplies to Russia's Kaliningrad region. In fact, there are very few gas volumes going through Belarus to Europe and they can be easily replaced by the Ukrainian gas pipelines. Indeed, gas supplies to Europe cannot be affected even in case of gas blockade of Belarus.
RT: What's behind Belarus not paying its bills on time?
K.K.: That is a very difficult question, a question of Belarus's political and economic system. Until recently Belarussian-Russian relations were built on the union principles, which meant that Russia paid for Belarus's loyalty, and received nothing but loyalty in return. A few years ago the Russian President declared his desire to change the situation, to build the relations on a more pragmatic basis, and he has been moving in this direction lately. By oil and gas supplies Russia donated to Belarus almost a half of its budget. So the most essential question for Belarus now is whether it keeps its system as is or makes radical transformation.
RT: Does it mean that Belarus considers itself a special case?
K.K.: Yes, of course, it's a very special case. After the collapse of the Soviet Union the union project was launched only with Belarus. Both countries, especially Belarus, have been much dependant on one another. But now Belarus has its own resources. It has a tremendous industry, which is totally dependent on Russia's resources. Now it is a matter of finding a formula how Belarus can receive Russian resources. Until recently it was a political one. This model worked during Yeltsin's time but lost its efficiency in 2003, when President Putin announced his desire to make the bilateral relations more pragmatic.
RT: Russia wants to prove that it's a reliable energy supplier. How can the gas issue with Belarus be resolved?
K.K.: As I've already mentioned, it is a crisis of the system, so it cannot be resolved soon. Either Russia will step back, which is unlikely, or Belarus will step back and accept Russia's model of relationship. In this game one side will always lose.