In an extensive article, Handelsblatt analyzes the consequences of Germany’s energy dependence on Russia. Characteristically, he states that at the G7 summit in Schloss Elmau, he stands with his arms outstretched in front of Barack Obama, who is sitting on a wooden bench. The German chancellor seems to explain the world to the American president, against the background of the cloudy peaks of the Alps.
Photography is now seven years old, Merkel’s era is over. However, it is ubiquitous. When the top seven industrialized nations (G7) meet again this weekend at Schloss Elmau, in the same place, they will be essentially dealing with the removal of the legacies left behind by Merkel. This is especially true of Merkel’s successor, the host of the G7 summit, Chancellor Olaf Soltz.
While Andrea Nahles, when she took over as SPD leader, was once described as a “ruin woman” who had to clean up the legacies of her predecessors, Scholz is something of a “ruin man” – with her not entirely small difference that it is not the SPD but world politics.
Putin was already a topic of discussion at the G7 summit in Elmau in 2015. The annexation of Crimea took place a year ago, Russia had just been expelled from the G8. “New unity against Putin – G7 countries want tougher action against Moscow” was one of Handelsblatt’s reports on the G7 summit.
However, the comprehensive announcements of the participants were not followed by actions. Despite the annexation of Crimea, despite Putin’s already imperialist behavior, Germany has become even more dependent on Russia since 2015.
Despite the annexation of Crimea, dependence on Putin has increased
During Merkel’s 16-year term, Russia’s share of German gas supplies rose from about 40% to 55%. The chancellor gave political support to the Kremlin plans Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2, even after the annexation of Crimea. He ignored warnings from Eastern Europe and the United States that the pipelines would lead to precarious dependence on Russia.
In retrospect, the decision of German politicians to put national security of supply in the hands of a revanchist dictatorship, and even to sell some of their country’s critical energy infrastructure to Russian companies such as Gazprom, seems almost insane to many experts. But Merkel does not want to admit any wrongdoing to this day.
“At that time, the German economy had decided to move gas from Russia via pipelines,” she told the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland a few days ago – as if it were her job as chancellor to meet the German economy’s demands for energy policy.
The strategic dimension of the gas partnership with Russia, which Merkel has repeatedly mentioned in Washington and Brussels, does not yet seem to be seen. What counted was the price – at the expense of security of supply.
Solz must now achieve in record time what Merkel did not consider necessary: free Germany from its dependence on Russian energy. The chancellor, who otherwise has only words of praise for his predecessor, openly criticizes it: “A mistake of German economic policy” was that “we concentrated our energy supply too much on Russia, without creating the necessary infrastructure. “So we can change course quickly if things get worse,” he said recently.
As mayor of Hamburg, he had supported the construction of liquefied natural gas terminals off the coast of northern Germany.
Russia could halt gas exports
There is not much time left. The German government now considers it possible that Russia will completely cut off gas supplies to Germany via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline in the Baltic Sea in three weeks, when maintenance work will have to be carried out on Nord Stream 1. “We can not rule it out” , says the president of the Federal Network Agency, Klaus Müller.
As other EU countries are supplied through Germany, the whole continent is facing an acute energy crisis. The head of the International Energy Agency (IEA), Fatih Birol, is already warning Europeans to prepare for an emergency.
“At the latest after the annexation of Crimea in 2014, the German government should have realized that Russia has an imperial appetite,” said Viola von Cramon, the Greens’ foreign policy expert. “But instead of accelerating the expansion of renewable energy sources and forging ties with other gas suppliers, Merkel was primarily interested in maintaining a competitive advantage for our core industries with cheap Russian gas. At a high political cost, as we now know.” .
The energy emergency is not the only problem Merkel left with Soltz. There is also the sad situation of the Bundeswehr.
For example, large-scale arms deliveries to Kyiv fail largely because Germany is so disastrously equipped. The day after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Army Inspector Alfons Mais warned: “The Bundeswehr, the army I am allowed to command, is more or less naked.”
And here, Merkel shifts the responsibility. He recently stated that he did not consider the Bundeswehr to be “saved to the bone”. In addition, the Bundestag budget committee had prevented the increase in defense spending. Merkel acted almost as if she had little to do with setting her own priorities.
China: “Merkel made us vulnerable”.
And then there are the close trade ties with China, which brought high profits to German companies, but created new dependencies. “Merkel has shaped relations with authoritarian powers in a way that has made us extremely vulnerable,” said Thorsten Benner, head of the Institute for Global Public Policy in Berlin. “We are paying the price now in the case of Russia, and if we do not change course, we risk paying an even higher price in the case of China.”
Therefore, China will be a constant topic of discussion in the coming days. Not only at the G7 summit in Elmau, but also at the NATO summit in Madrid, where the Western military alliance plans to adopt a new strategic vision. In particular, the harshness of the wording about China in the concept is the subject of battle during the preparation.
Soltz is more in Merkel’s tradition here: The German government is pursuing a “differentiated and differentiated approach based on NATO’s previous language,” a senior government official said. By no means do I want to convey that I recommend for the mother to be inactive in China.
In economic policy, on the other hand, Solz counts on greater independence – the slogan is “diversification”, in other words, opening up new markets to make it less dependent on China. The fact that, after a long dispute, the CDU / CSU alliance agreed on Thursday to ratify the free trade agreement with Canada is a first step in that direction. Nor is the time random. Canada is a member of the G7 and is offered as a supplier of rare earths, ie minerals that are central to the energy transition and which so far come almost entirely from China.
Although the West seeks greater economic independence from China and the People’s Republic itself economic self-sufficiency, the chancellor wants to avoid at all costs a situation where the world is divided into two blocs, with the industrialized countries of the West on one side and the emerging economies led by China and Russia on the other.
That is why Scholz wants to strengthen cooperation with democracies outside the Western Alliance in Elmau. He “very consciously” invited the heads of state and government of Indonesia, India, South Africa and Senegal to Elmau.
There is a lot of agreement with the US on this point. The US president held a “Republic Summit” last year and wants to repel the influence of China and Russia.
But Scholz is pursuing a second goal with the invitations: in Elmau, Scholz wants to bring to life the idea of the Climate Club, which he presented last year. Host countries play an important role in this. Scholz believes that international climate policy coordination is too small so far. He wants to eliminate the risk of trade conflicts arising through his climate club.
Here, too, Soltz tries to correct the mistakes made during Merkel’s time. In 2015, the G7 made the promise of the century to Elmau to completely eliminate coal, oil and gas during the century and to establish binding rules to that effect in the Paris Climate Agreement. Not much came out of that either.