Germany must “try the unrealistic” to break away from Russian gas, says vice chancellor

Nadine Schmidt and Lindsay Isaac

Germany’s Vice Chancellor and Economy Minister Robert Habeck has said that his government’s goal must be to ensure independence from Russian energy supplies, even if it means pushing for alternative solutions previously considered “unrealistic.”

Following Russia’s decision to stop gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria on Wednesday over their refusal to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin’s demand for payment in rubles, Habeck told journalists at a press briefing in Berlin that Germany’s dependence on Russian gas has rapidly decreased in recent weeks.

“Germany has now slashed its gas imports from Russia to 35 percent — compared to 55 percent before the start of the war,” he said.

While it is “not realistic” for Germany to completely ban Russian gas before next year given the new infrastructure required to diversify gas imports, ”nevertheless, we have to try the unrealistic in some ways now,” Habeck said.

Habeck urged Germany to speed up the building of a liquid natural gas terminal within ten months’ time. Habeck described Russia’s decision to cease supplies of gas to Poland and Bulgaria as an example of ”the reality where energy is used as a weapon” and said that ”Russia is showing that it’s ready to get serious.”

They’re ready to put a stop to gas deliveries. We have to take that seriously, and that also goes for other European countries,” Habeck said. 

”It would be cynical if big and powerful Germany thought: ‘Oh well, you can beat up the little guys a bit — that’s a warning for you.’ No this is reality — this is the reality where energy is used as a weapon and we have to see that we are not defenseless when energy is used as a weapon.”

Germany’s goal is to diversify energy infrastructures accordingly and ”revamp our energy infrastructure based on renewable energy and massive savings so that we are not defenseless,” he added.

On Tuesday during a visit to Poland, Habeck said that Germany could handle an embargo on Russian oil imports, hinting that the country could end its dependence on Russian oil imports shortly. Habeck told journalists that Germany’s share of crude oil imported from Russia has fallen from 35 percent before the war to around 12 percent, adding that a European embargo on Russian oil would be “manageable.”

Habeck stressed Wednesday that Germany would continue to make its energy payments in euros or dollars in line with its European partners.

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