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The Duel Of Two Presidents

The Duel Of Two Presidents
By Natalya Grigorieva
Deutsche Welle
The Russian-Belarusian conflict has spoilt Russia’s image in Europe as a reliable supplier of energy resources. Trying to save the situation, Putin stated about having to make Russia less dependant on transit countries.
Director of ‘The Strategy’ Centre Leonid Zaiko is convinced that the main reason behind the controversy is not about the disrupted supplies of energy resources, “It was a Presidential duel. Not so many were affected really. If some oil was missing, there is plenty of it in the world market. It was rather about something called “the anti-Russian ideas”. Europe thought Russia to be kind, supple, and democratic. This situation held many anti-Russian feelings, politics and many double standards”.
The Presidential duel is speeding up. The Russian President has made a new advance. “We will do everything possible to make us less dependant on transit countries”, stated Vladimir Putin during his meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Not long before, the President’s Advisor Igor Shuvalov was saying the same while in Berlin. Russia is going to develop the pipeline system so that “no transit states will be able to blackmail us or dictate their terms”.
Director of the Mezis Scientific Research Centre Yaroslav Romanchuk reckons that this decision will not be of any significant financial detriment to the Belarusian economy, “Transit can not be measured by how much money comes to the budget. Transit is a strategy, it’s big politics. Therefore, Belarus is in a situation when it might stop being so strategically attractive and then if Russia undertakes some radical actions to bypass the Belarusian territory, it will be extremely difficult to backtrack these plans especially when they were funded already. Losing a hundred million dollars for the budget is not that bad – losing a possibility to make much more money, will cost much more.”
Gazprom Company also confirmed the seriousness of this declaration. The press release of 16 January says that in 2007, the Company is going to allocate about 1 billion US dollars for enlarging gas transportation system including the construction of the ‘Nord Stream’ (Northern Europe) gas pipeline.
President Lukashenko said this Russian project to be the most foolish and deserving of an entry in the Guinness book of records.
Leonid Zaiko agrees with the President: “After World War Two so many ships loaded with bombs were sunk in the Baltic Sea. Nobody know exactly were they are now. Oil and gas pipeline across Belarus lay on free land. It will only take reinforcing of these lines or running extra lines alongside. It won’t be that expensive and they won’t need to invent new routes.”
“Theoretically Belarus can be excluded altogether. There is Odessa-Brody, there is Caspian oil. Poland can get oil from there, but it’s much easier to be getting it from Belarus! I don’t think that the situation is going to escalate to the point when borders or oil taps are shut off. The Baltic pipeline will be completed soon, but its capacity is not so big, to be doing away with Belarus. Building a new one is not something Russia is able to manage,” Yaroslav Romanchuk pointed out.
Belarusian experts are prone to think that the dispute between Belarus and Russia was to some extent instigated by the West.
“Everyone clearly understands that Moscow is trying to meet the West’s long-awaited request – to stop subsidising Lukashenko’s authoritarian regime. In the case when the West says the regime to be authoritarian, illegitimate, and doesn’t recognise it, why then are these mild, not harsh, actions that Moscow took against Belarus raising a surge of negative comments in Moscow?”
Despite any misunderstandings, the Belarusian President is convinced that the relationship with the closest neighbour will be fine soon. Allocating 9 million US dollars to renovate the roof of the open air theatre in Vitebsk that hosts the annual Slavic Bazaar festival, will strengthen the Union State, reckons President Lukashenko.
In the meanwhile, the US Ministry of Trade keeps advising American businesses not to take their goods across Belarus – goods can be confiscated under any pretext, warns the U.S. Ministry.


29 Января, 2007
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