Berlin says it can’t immediately pull the plug on Russian oil and gas without causing mass poverty in the country
FILE PHOTO: Workers at a gas facility in Amur Region, Russia, 2021. © Pavel Lvov/Spuntik
German Economy Minister Robert Habeck has said that cutting off energy supplies from Russia right now will tank the economy and make ordinary people’s lives miserable.
The dependency on Russian fossil fuels remains “comparatively high,” Habeck told ARD on Sunday.
“If we flip the switch immediately, there will be supply shortages, even supply stops, mass unemployment, poverty,” Habeck warned, adding that there will be “people who will no longer be able to heat their homes, people who will run out of petrol.”
“With coal, oil, and even gas, we are step by step in the process of making ourselves independent,” the minister noted. “But we can’t do it in an instant. That’s bitter, and it’s not a nice thing morally to confess to, but we can’t do it yet.” At the same time, Habeck said that Germany has continued to become more independent from Russian energy.
Europe has been under pressure to impose more sanctions on Russia in response to its ongoing military campaign in Ukraine. The European Commission said last week that it will phase out its dependency on Russian oil, gas, and coal by 2030, but, unlike the US and UK, stopped short of an immediate ban on importing energy from Russia. EU officials said member states must deal with the rising energy prices and replenish gas reserves before winter.
The EU previously adopted sweeping restrictions on Russian banks and trade. The majority of European countries closed their airspace to Russia-linked flights, and Moscow responded in kind.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said last week that the country’s energy sector came prepared for sanctions, while the government was working on ways to mitigate the impact.
Moscow attacked the neighboring state in late February, following a seven-year standoff over Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, and Russia’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics in Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered protocols were designed to regularize the status of the regions within the Ukrainian state.
Russia has now demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join NATO.
Kiev says the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.