Berlin before the Russian gas trap

Publisher of the “World”. Like a deer in the headlights of a car, the German government has been trapped for a month in the trap of Russian gas, on which the economy and consumers on the other side of the Rhine depend to a large extent. What had been perceived for two decades in Berlin as a win-win market, even from a geopolitical angle, has become with the Russian aggression in Ukraine not only a formidable lever for Moscow in Europe, but also a real economic and social change. time bomb.

Just two months ago, Chancellor Olaf Scholz believed he could resist pressure from several of his European partners and from the Greens, his coalition partners, who were demanding the abandonment of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. had to give in. The issue of the gas pipeline appears today as a minor issue, compared to the magnitude of the challenge that the European Union now faces: to break completely with Russia as a source of fossil fuels. As Western sanctions fall on Vladimir Putin’s regime, it is no longer acceptable that European economies continue to help finance his war in Ukraine by paying him $700 million (626 million euros) every day in hydrocarbon purchases.

welcome lucidity

The task is the most difficult for Germany, which imports 55% of its gas from Russia. Putin’s threat to demand payment in rubles for these hydrocarbons added to the confusion. The Europeans refused; the Russian president softened his stance by calling Mr. Scholz and his Italian colleague, Mario Draghi, on Wednesday, March 30, thus betraying his own dependence on financial resources provided by gas. But Berlin now knows that it must give up Russian gas and that, in the context of the Ukraine war, the break-up could be brutal. The time of denial is over.

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After a few days of intense debate, the German government has made a visible assessment of the urgency. On Wednesday, he mentioned the activation of energy rationing measures and the creation of a crisis unit in the event of a Russian supply interruption. The Minister of Economy and Climate, Robert Habeck (Greens), has launched an information campaign to alert public opinion about the possible effects of such a decision: “We are in a situation where I have to make it clear that every kilowatt hour of energy saved is useful,” he said.

This idea is welcome. Indeed, Chancellor Scholz had given the impression in recent days of postponing, given the seriousness of the foreseeable consequences for the German economy. “The question is not whether we will have to lower the heating a few degreesresponded on a television show on Sunday. The question is whether we will be able to supply certain structures. The issue is mobility. And the question is an incredible number of jobs, because many industrial processes depend on coal, gas and oil. »

But it is not only a German question. The weight of the German economy in Europe and the integration of the EU economies mean that the urgency of Berlin’s reaction to cut off Russian gas concerns all its European partners. The possible prospect of having to manage a war economy requires European coordination and solidarity at least equivalent to that put in place to deal with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Also read: Article reserved for our subscribers How Europe can reduce its over-reliance on Russian gas

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