- Russia’s cuts to natural gas exports have crippled Germany’s economy after a history of poorly executed climate policy.
- The U.S. has invested billions in shoring up European defenses and putting pressure on Germany to boost defense spending, but Germany continued to pursue deeper ties with Russia.
- “Foolish decisions by the German government have made the country hostage to Russia,” Myron Ebell, director of the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Center for Energy and Environment, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s temporary shutdown of the NordStream 1 pipeline in July sent gas prices soaring and Germany bracing for permanent energy insecurity. While the U.S. has invested heavily in Europe’s defenses as a counter to Russia, Germany could still lose out to Russia on economic terms.
The U.S. made Germany a cornerstone of its European defense, investing billions of dollars and thousands of troops to man the front lines of the Cold War against Russia over previous decades, experts told the Daily Caller News Foundation. But Germany’s botched transition to renewable energy sources has given Russia, which controls a third of Germany’s gas imports according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the power to cripple Germany’s economy and expose it to a brutal winter.
“Foolish decisions by the German government have made the country hostage to Russia,” Myron Ebell, director of the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Center for Energy and Environment, told the DCNF. “Germany’s energy transition to green energy has been an incredibly expensive disaster.”
After Germany joined its Western allies in levying sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, Putin cut gas flows to Europe. Germany’s economy crumbled from the lack of access to cheap energy, sending it scrambling for alternatives, like coal and nuclear, it previously spurned. (RELATED: Putin Promises To Keep The Gas Flowing To Europe — For Now)
If Russian gas flows stop, Germany could lose up to 5% of its GDP in 2022, with losses deepening in 2023 and 2024, according to the IMF.
Failure to find a substitute for Russian gas could lead to “people freezing to death next winter, as well as industrial collapse,” Ebell said.
Germany has been reliant on Russian energy for decades, since the West German government shared its knowledge of industrial production with the former USSR in exchange for natural gas, Peter Earle, an economist at the American Institute for Economic Research, explained to the DCNF.
Former U.S. President Donald Trump had warned Germany against overreliance on Russian energy at a UN General Assembly meeting in 2018. The German delegation present mocked him.
Former chancellor Angela Merkel, known as the “climate chancellor” for her focus on reducing emissions, decided to shift away from nuclear energy in 2021, Reuters reported. Critics said this would sabotage Germany’s efforts to transition away from natural gas from Russia.
Former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder currently sits on the board of Nord Stream, a company controlled by Russia’s state-owned oil giant Gazprom, and remains unapologetic even after the invasion, The New York Times reported in April.
Given what bedwetters Germans are anyway when it comes to confronting Russia (see the existential struggle over whether to send Ukraine armoured personnel carriers), it makes more sense for Putin longer term to just keep them guessing by rattling their cage every now and again.
— Matt Karnitschnig (@MKarnitschnig) July 16, 2022
So when the Russian army was amassing on the border of Ukraine in early February, Germany stalled on a decision to halt Nord Stream 2, a controversial pipeline that would bypass Ukraine to deliver Russian gas to Germany at a lower cost, Deutsch Welle (DW) reported. Germany also received widespread criticism after donating just 5,000 helmets to Ukrainian troops preparing for war.
Germany feels caught between a desire for positive relations with Russia and a need to maintain strong ties to the U.S. and other NATO states, Christopher Layne, Robert M. Gates Chair in National Security and professor at Texas A&M University, told the DCNF.
“Maintaining a cooperative relationship with Russia has been one of the cardinal aims of post-World War II German foreign policy,” Layne said. He called Germany’s response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine both “conflicted” and “ambivalent.”
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz ramped up Germany’s defense budget on Feb. 27, just days after Putin invaded, introducing a EUR100 billion supplemental fund and pledging to meet the minimum 2% GDP NATO spending requirement from 2022 forward. The government also authorized arms shipments to Ukraine despite the majority coalition’s prior rules against sending weapons to active conflict zones, DW reported.
But German heavy weaponry didn’t reach Ukraine until June, after it greenlighted deliveries of self-propelled antiaircraft guns in April, The Washington Post reported.
The U.S. considers Germany, the headquarters of the Army’s European Command, a key player in the anti-Russia NATO alliance, according to the State Department.
Roughly 48,000 U.S. active duty, reserve and civilian personnel were stationed in Germany as of March 2022, according to the Defense Manpower Data Center. The U.S. deployed an additional 20,000 troops to Europe between February and June 2022 to bolster NATO’s eastern flank, according to a Department of Defense (DOD) statement.
“Germany’s politicians have been pounding podiums in public but issuing no meaningful commands or actions behind the scenes,” Peter Doran, a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies with a focus on Russia, Ukraine and transatlantic relations, told the DCNF. “Berlin has been keen to gain public approval on the world stage for its soaring rhetoric — but without reversing two decades of its colossally short-sighted pro-Russia policy.”
The German Embassy to the U.S. declined to comment, and DOD directed the DCNF to public statements. The U.S. Embassy to Germany did not respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder serves on the board of Nord Stream, a firm controlled by Russian state-owned energy company Gazprom, and not on the board of Gazprom itself. He declined an invitation to join the Gazprom board earlier this year.
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