If democratic changes occur in Belarus, Russia will use any means of pressure on the country to retain its influence. This may show in the increased energy resources cost or lack of supplies. Thus, even today, it is worth considering the scenario in which Belarus will live without Russian gas, writes economist and energy security expert from iSANS Yauhen Makarchuk.
Euroradio has asked the expert about his suggestions in this regard.
Russia is known for putting pressure on others using energy supplies
Russian officials usually say that gas prices and their discussion is a dispute of economic entities, Makarchuk notes.
"In fact, we see that the political component of gas prices is considerably more important than all the rest. This can be seen in Ukraine and Moldova. The countries of our region that changed their foreign policy direction went through periods of gas or oil conflicts with Russia. Thus, after the change of political course, we will likely face the increase in oil and gas prices, and perhaps, even the end of the supplies".
It is possible to survive the price increase, although it will hit the wallets of Belarusians. The problem of supply limitations cannot be solved in this way. And the consequences of such a scenario will be more serious, the expert believes.
"If there are no more gas supplies, the energy system operation is impossible, and the available reserves will not be enough for an extended period. The power plants won't be able to provide a power balance, which can lead to mass power cuts. Heat supply in cities is based on gas-fired cogeneration plants. Most district boiler plants run on natural gas.
It is possible to replace natural gas with heating oil partially, but there are several facilities where such replacement is not possible. This is especially true for district boilers and power equipment of enterprises. And based on the example of Ukraine, we see that Russia is ready to take such steps without regard to the risks and suffering of the population.
Society needs to be prepared
In recent years, we have expanded the technical possibilities for gas supply from other countries, but we still have many issues to solve.
"First of all, it is necessary to formulate a corresponding request to the neighboring countries and to get their confirmation of the readiness to provide this support. Suppose the most dangerous consequences of a shortage of energy supplies from Russia to Belarus are prevented or resolved. In that case, it should be understood that the cost of new gas supplies will almost certainly increase. Consequently, electricity and heat prices will increase as well.
Moscow will not only press from the outside but will actively fund the pro-Russian forces in Belarus. They will rise in Belarus even faster than the democratic movement, the expert believes.
"They will advocate the continuation of the independent trade in exchange for cheap gas. It is very likely that by the time the democratic elections are held, we will have a significant increase in the cost of utilities, impoverishment of the population due to the deteriorating economy caused by rising energy prices, and disruption of electricity and heating.