German Chancellor Says Europe Can’t Stop Russian Energy Imports Right Now

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. (Photo by Michael Kappeler / Pool /AFP via Getty Images)

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. (Photo by Michael Kappeler / Pool /AFP via Getty Images)

( – German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Monday that the decision to exempt Russian energy supplies from sanctions imposed in response to President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine had been a deliberate one, and that the flow should continue.

“There is currently no other way of securing Europe’s supply of energy for heat generation, for mobility, for power supply and for industry,” he said in a statement. “It is therefore of essential importance for services of general interest and the daily life of our citizens.”

Scholz said the German government has been working with E.U. and other partners for months to develop alternatives to Russian energy.

“But that doesn’t happen overnight. It is therefore a conscious decision on our part to continue the activities of business enterprises in the field of energy supply with Russia.”

At a press conference in London on Monday, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said it was a “painful reality” that Europeans remain “very much dependent” on Russian oil and gas

“We have to dramatically reduce our dependency,” he said, but the process would “take time.”

As Germany and others look for alternative sources of energy, Europe has become the top destination for U.S. shipments of liquefied natural gas (LNG).

At the weekend, German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said plans were going ahead to build a LNG terminal on the North Sea coast near Hamburg.

“It is necessary to reduce our dependence on Russian imports as soon as possible, » the Wall Street Journal quoted Habeck as saying. “Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine makes this mandatory.”

The U.S. and its allies are continuing to mull the possibility of banning the import of Russian oil. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday “very active discussions” were underway, although White House press secretary Jen Psaki at a briefing Monday pointed out that cutting off Russian oil would be a lot more difficult for Europe than for the United States.

“Our capabilities and our capacities are very different, both because we import such a smaller percentage of oil from Russia than the Europeans do, but also because we have a much larger capacity for producing our own oil,” she said.

“So, it is a very different circumstance, and certainly we are going to continue to consult with, continue to convey where our plans, where our discussions are here, internally with the Europeans.”

Then-Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin attends a launch ceremony of the original Nord Stream gas pipeline, in Vyborg, western Russia, in 2011. (Photo by Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images)

Then-Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin attends a launch ceremony of the original Nord Stream gas pipeline, in Vyborg, western Russia, in 2011. (Photo by Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images)

Energy represented 62 percent of EU imports from Russia last year.

On the eve of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Scholz announced that the process to certify the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany – which was completed last fall but was awaiting regulatory approval – had been suspended indefinitely.

The Biden administration then lifted waivers that it had controversially invoked last year, and imposed sanctions against the principal actors in the project.

The now-halted project was designed to double the amount of natural gas flowing from Russia to Germany through the original Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which has a total capacity of 55 billion cubic meters of gas per year.

Vulnerable to extortion and intimidation’

On Monday, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak issued what appeared to be a veiled threat to shut off Nord Stream 1.

“In connection with unfounded accusations against Russia regarding the energy crisis in Europe and the imposition of a ban on Nord Stream 2, we have every right to take a matching decision and impose an embargo on gas pumping through the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline,” he said in televised comments.

“So far, we are not taking such a decision,” he said.

The U.S. and some European nations have long warned that E.U. member-states being overly reliant on Russia for energy supplies left them vulnerable to the Kremlin’s maneuvering.

“Reliance on a single foreign supplier can leave a nation vulnerable to extortion and intimidation,” President Trump told the U.N. General Assembly in September 2018. “That is why we congratulate European states such as Poland for leading the construction of a Baltic pipeline so that nations are not dependent on Russia to meet their energy needs.”

(The Baltic Pipe is a project to pipe natural gas from the Norwegian sector of the North Sea, via Denmark, to Poland. It plans to be operational by late this year, or early 2023.)

“Germany will become totally dependent on Russian energy if it does not immediately change course,” Trump said, alluding in part to Nord Stream 2, then under construction.

As the president shifted topics, the U.N. cameras moved to the German delegation, where then-Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and his colleagues were seen exchanging glances and smiling.

See related story:

Moscow Warns of $300/Barrel Oil; Says Western Leaders Should Tell Their Citizens ‘What Awaits Them’ (Mar. 8, 2022)

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