Germany depends on Russian energy, and will not follow US and UK in banning imports, top diplomat says
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said on Tuesday that her country would “not be able to move” without Russian oil imports. While the UK and US announced they would cease buying Moscow’s oil, Germany is too reliant to quit.
“A third of our oil imports come from Russia,” Baerbock told the video channel of the newspaper Bild. “If we stopped these straight away, then tomorrow we would not be able to move in Germany anymore.”
“We are trying to do everything we can to stop this war,” Baerbock continued, referring to the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia, before claiming that Russian President Vladimir Putin is currently “unstoppable.”
Baerbock is a member of the Green Party, and was a supporter of shutting down Germany’s remaining three nuclear plants, currently slated for closure by the end of this year. Baerbock also opposed the certification of the Russia-Germany Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline months before Russia launched its military offensive in Ukraine. Once open conflict began last month, her coalition government quickly froze certification of the pipeline.
However, Germany’s government has sought to put the brakes on any further sanctioning of Russian energy. On Monday, Chancellor Olaf Scholz issued a statement describing Russian oil and gas as “essential” for European energy security.
“At the moment, Europe’s supply of energy for heat generation, mobility, power supply and industry cannot be secured in any other way,” than by importing from Russia, the statement read. “It is therefore of essential importance for the provision of public services and the daily lives of our citizens.”
In addition to counting on Russia for a third of its imported oil, Germany relies on Russia for more than half of its total gas supply.
Banning Russian energy imports is therefore far less tenable in Germany than in the US or UK, both of which issued bans on Tuesday. London banned oil imports, while Washington banned both oil and gas. However, both countries source only around 8% of their oil from Russia, with the UK importing 4% of its gas supply from Russia and the US importing next to zero.
Compounding Germany’s reliance is the fact that the country’s push toward green energy hasn’t yielded the desired results. Coal plants were restarted last year as there wasn’t enough wind to power the country’s windmills, and even before the current spike in energy costs as a result of sanctions and market uncertainty over Ukraine, German electricity costs were already the highest in the world and rising.
Yet as an EU member, Germany will eventually see itself weaned off Russian fuels. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced on Tuesday that the EU would reduce its demand for Russian gas by two thirds before the end of the year, and phase out Russian fossil fuels before 2030.