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Germany: its struggle to tear itself from Russian oil for the sake of Ukraine

As Russia begins turning off gas supplies to Germany, the government in Berlin have been forced to admit that the country’s reliance on Russian oil over the last fifty years has been an error of judgement.


As Merkel departed the Reichstag last year, little did she know that her efforts to fuel Germany with more Russian energy than ever was a bad decision. The Nord Stream 2 pipeline was planned to deliver Russian gas supplies under the Baltic Sea from Vyborg in Russia to Greifswald in Germany. However, since the Invasion of Ukraine, the scheme pipeline has been suspended while Europe tries to wean itself off Russian gas and oil to prevent risking European money funding the war.


Since the pan-European rejection of Russian oil, Germany has found itself with limited alternatives, having ditched nuclear and coal energy. The German reliance on Russian energy has seemingly been unbreakable, despite the unethical consequences of funding the Russian economy. According to the Guardian: “€8.3bn [has been paid by Germany since the start of the invasion] for Russian energy – money used by Moscow to prop up the rouble and buy the artillery shells firing at Ukrainian positions in Donetsk. In that time, EU countries are estimated to have paid a total of €39bn for Russian energy, more than double the sum they have given to help Ukraine defend itself.”


Europe now has another conflict with Germany at its epicentre. While the economic centre of Europe struggles to compute how to fuel its industrially based economy, the nation has also been criticised more than other Western states for its support of Ukraine. Despite voting at the beginning of the conflict to supply Ukraine with weapons, the Bundestag has been accused of not doing enough to prevent a Russian victory, with only minimal aid arriving in the war-torn state. Supposedly only two shipments have arrived since the start of the conflict and the country’s difficult past, there was an initial refusal to send heavy weapons. However, to the dismay of the German people at supposedly how little their government were doing to help Ukraine, shipments of Bundeswehr howitzers are on their way.


This struggle to get German military support off the ground as Germany grapples with concerns surrounding German gas supplies is another example of this conflict that highlights how internal affairs will always outweigh international agency. While fighting remains contained to Ukraine, a country where there are now no safe fields to plough, let alone houses to heat, European support to Ukraine can be argued as simply ‘goodwill’.


Superficially, sanctions will seem comprehensive and to some extent will make a dent in the Russian economy. However, as Germany proves, Europe’s growing concern will be the difficulty in how to circumvent the use of Russian energy (if they are genuine in their support of Ukraine), or what is more probable is the introduction of third-party states to essentially ‘rebrand’ the oil to get past sanctions.


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