“Like a deer in the headlights,” Germany’s government “fell into the trap of Russian gas,” he said Le Monde (Paris). For two decades, Berlin has prided itself that sourcing the majority of its gas – now about 40% – from Russia was a win-win strategy, which both helped reduce energy costs and brought Russia closer to Europe.
Just two months ago, Chancellor Olaf Scholz resisted pressure from his European partners to abandon the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, through which gas would flow from Russia to Germany. Now, however, that policy can be seen for what it is: “a veritable economic and social time bomb” that could have exploded last week when Vladimir Putin threatened that all payments for Russian energy would have to be made in sanction-breaking Russian rubles. Fortunately, Putin backed off that threat this week: He needs the money as badly as Germany needs gas. But let’s hope this is a wake-up call for Berlin to give up its energy dependence on Russia. “The time for denial is over.”
But how quickly will it take effect, asked Nik Martin and Insa Wrede in Deutsche Welle (Bonn). Right now, Germany is “effectively funding Putin’s war machine” by spending hundreds of millions of euros a day on Russian energy. The Federation of German Industries demands that we continue to do so, otherwise we will suffer “unforeseeable consequences”, according to Scholz. Any sudden embargo, he told Parliament last month, would mean “plunging our country and all of Europe into recession”.
Well, it might be, yet some analysts are adamant that a short-term halt to deliveries would be “significant but tolerable”: According to scientists at the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, it would cause no more than a 0.5%-3% drop in the German GDP – small beer compared to the 4.5% decline in the first year of the pandemic.
Chancellor Scholz just doesn’t seem to get it, said Alexander Kissler The New Zurich Times (Zurich). He was deeply unassuming during this crisis. He doesn’t tolerate criticism: he’s more and more like the know-it-all social democratic mayor of yore. In contrast, the second most important member of the federal government – Economics Minister and Green Party co-leader Robert Habeck – has gained in stature. Habeck has announced a three-tiered alert system to prepare the country for energy savings, the last of which includes rationing of gas supplies. The first stage – an early warning of a supply emergency – was triggered last week. The “cheeky” regional politician has become an all-German leader. “Habeck can have crises; Only Scholz can do Scholz.”
Well, not quite, said Jörg Münchenberg Deutschlandfunk (Berlin). Habeck should have acted much earlier to prepare citizens and companies to use energy more sparingly: his own Greens urged him to do so, but until this week he held back. The quintessence of all this, said Hans-Werner Sinn in project syndicate (Prague), Germany is stuck thanks to Angela Merkel’s disastrous energy policy – shutting down the country’s 17 nuclear power plants while phasing out coal. It simply won’t be able to import the gas it would need if it cut supplies from Russia. Unlike many of its neighbors, it has no liquefied natural gas terminals that could allow Russian supplies to be substituted for supplies from the US or the Middle East.
If it suddenly scaled back Russian gas imports, then gas-based home heating – “on which half the German population depends” – and gas-import dependent industrial processes (especially the chemical industry and the world’s largest chemical company). , BASF) would collapse. A government’s chances of surviving the resulting chaos would be non-existent, and “the likely extent of internal disruption would call into question the cohesion of the Western response to the Ukraine war.” In short, don’t expect Germany to wean itself off Russian gas anytime soon.
https://www.theweek.co.uk/news/world-news/europe/956380/in-hock-to-moscow-exploring-germanys-woeful-energy-policy Leaping to Moscow: Exploring Germany’s Abysmal Energy Policy