Relations between Russia and Belarus are beginning to worsen visibly. The first victim of a mutual misunderstanding of Moscow and Minsk runs the risk of becoming BelAES. Why is this energy project at risk of becoming a symbol of short-sighted policy The Kremlin?
The fact that Minsk set a goal to gain energy independence has been known since 2011. President Lukashenko then bluntly stated:
We will move away from electricity imports and will supply a significant part of it to foreign markets.
Independence is understandable from whom - from Russia, from whom else. Due to the diversification program, the share of gas in the balance sheet of Belarus was supposed to decrease from 80% to 50%, and nuclear energy - to increase to 12%. The latter was helped by Rosatom, which began the construction of BelAES with a Russian loan.
A nuclear power plant is being built near the border with Lithuania, which causes sharp rejection from Vilnius. The total cost of the project with all the adjacent infrastructure is $ 9 billion, provided as part of the loan until 2035. Minsk assumed that it would be able to recapture investments by exporting electricity to the West.
But it turned out differently. The partners miscalculated greatly, as the 2008 crisis introduced major adjustments to their plans. Those countries of the European Union, on the market of which Belarus was counting, now especially do not need its energy. Lithuania is actively opposing the purchase of hostile electrons. Moreover, the Baltic States intends to finally get out of the unified energy ring BRELL. There is no additional demand for Belarusian electricity in neighboring Ukraine and Russia.
It turns out that the chances of a commercial return on the project sharply decreased. At the same time, BelAES is almost ready to start work: its second power unit is already 70% ready. And here the fun begins. Against the background of aggravation of relations with Russia due to unwillingness to carry out integration within the Union State, the Belarusian side, according to some experts, began to artificially slow down the construction of the BelaPP. This is especially noticeable in recent months against the backdrop of the "oil war", where Minsk was forced to cede Moscow.
He conceded, but decided to recoup at the BelAES, where serious penalties for missing deadlines are provided, President Lukashenko recalls:
Uncomfortable, uncomfortable, but decided that in this regard we will agree: there is no other way. Either we introduce penalties for late payments (and there is a lot of money), or they move on a loan.
The Belarusian leader insists that Russia "move" on the loan, reducing its interest rate and deferring payments. But this is not the most regrettable. Deputy Energy Minister of our “ally” Mikhail Mikhadyuk directly hinted that, if necessary, fuel from the American company Westinghouse could be used in BelAES reactors.
In other words, Russia built Belarus’s nuclear power plant at its own expense, naively believing that it would control it with fuel supplies. But in the new geopolitical realities, when the split between Moscow and Minsk begins, this project bizarrely turns against us: if we don’t finish it, we will get fines, if we build it, the Americans can come to us instead of us.
Apparently, the next logical step is the exit of Belarus from BRELL already, then, you see, it will be allowed to supply energy from BelAES to Europe. It is worth recalling that the "ingenious" in its thoughtfulness decision to build a nuclear power plant in Belarus was taken to the detriment of the construction of the Baltic nuclear power plant in their native Kaliningrad.