Germany cannot rely on Russian energy. It doesn’t know what to do instead

The prospect of warmer weather is brightening spirits across Germany after another harsh winter — and no one is more excited for spring than Olaf Scholz. The German chancellor knows that prolonged cold weather means increased demand for natural gas, which heats half of households and provides a quarter of energy needs for Europe’s largest economy. Europe. But these days, Scholz doesn’t want to be mentioned as the source of more than half of that gas: Russia.

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, and Western sanctions on Moscow, mean that Germany needs to find alternative sources of supplies. Analysts say that could take two to three years. Meanwhile, political parties are scrambling to make up for a series of strategic blunders that have led Putin to have Germany in his hands — like business magazine Wirtschaftswoche put it— “like a dealer controlling a playboy.”
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Much of the blame lies with former Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), which oversaw the dismantling of Germany’s nuclear power plant after the 2011 Fukushima disaster. It also followed suit. its foot on renewable energy, does not guarantee that. the country already has strategic reserves on hand, and has neglected to provide alternative sources in the event of Russian supply disruptions.

Read more: Key missing link in sanctions against Russia

Veronica Grimm, energy economist at the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität in Erlangen-Nürnberg, said: “During Chancellor Merkel’s tenure as chancellor, code dependence was seen as a way of ensuring geopolitical stability. . “But we are increasingly transitioning from a rules-based world order to a strength-based world order. We were not well prepared for this.”

At the same time, it will be difficult for other German political parties to take advantage of the CDU’s mistake, since they have faced the crisis themselves. Scholz and his Social Democratic Party (SPD) have long been among the main supporters of Nord Stream 2, the controversial pipeline intended to secure more Russian gas supplies.

Crucially, the pipeline bypassed Ukraine, which critics see as a way of reducing Kyiv’s leverage over Moscow. Washington also voiced concerns that the project would increase Europe’s energy dependence on Russia and threatened sanctions on the company behind it in September 2020. But Scholz, as minister finance, led the negotiations to save Nord Stream 2. To appease the Biden administration, he offered up to one billion euros to build two LNG terminals to import gas from the United States and other sources. . Construction of these stations has stalled following protests from environmentalists, although Scholz recently announced plans to revive the stations.

Scholz also struggled with his party’s Russia-friendly image. Construction of the first gas pipeline from Russia took place in 1973, under the supervision of the SPD prime minister, Willi Brandt, who pursued conciliatory trade and other policies with the communist bloc. Meanwhile, former SPD prime minister Gerhard Schröder has friendly relations with Putin and earns hundreds of thousands of euros a year as a board member of Russian gas companies Gazprom and Rosnet. It was only after the 24 February invasion of Ukraine that the SPD called on Schröder to sever those ties. (During the measurement, Schröderisieung was included in the dictionary of the German media to refer to a process of growing corruption and aging politicians to power.)

Read more: Europe’s illusion of peace has been shattered

Other parties are also being criticized. The Greens face attack for their longstanding demilitarization policy. The Liberal Democrats, a minor partner in the current ruling coalition, have been baffled by their reluctance to impose tough economic sanctions on Moscow. Indeed, despite the political situation over the past few days, “all sides have dodged the cost of tougher sanctions for so long,” Grimm said. She called the position “short-sighted” because of the enormous consequences if the war escalates. “The question is, what package of sanctions can prevent further escalation?”

Beyond the immediate question of sanctions, however, Germany faces a more common challenge than reorienting itself away from the rules-based order that Putin set aside during his invasion of Ukraine and toward towards a new global order in which military might seems inevitable. play a larger role. But as the EU rolls out increasingly aggressive sanctions and Germany begins to bolster its military, it seems that the country’s leaders are still trying to make up for old mistakes instead of plotting. roadmap for the future. For Chancellor Scholz, spring still has a long way to go. Germany cannot rely on Russian energy. It doesn’t know what to do instead

Justin Scacco

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