German Chancellor Olaf Scholz must be braving insufferable insomnia these days! His nation may run out of gas very soon, and this could toss Europe’s biggest economic powerhouse into an abyss of despair. The gas flows through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline have already been reduced to 40% of its regular capacity, and the pipeline is scheduled for maintenance this July, where supplies would be completely shut down. The apprehension in Berlin is that supplies may never begin thereafter.
Gas crisis gets exacerbated
It may be noted that the gas supplies via the Nord Stream 1 and TurkStream have been seriously hampered by Russia-owned gas supplier Gazprom citing technical issues. Robert Habeck, Germany’s vice-chancellor, acknowledged Thursday that the country was now in deep gas crisis. He said, “Even if gas volumes can still be procured on the market and are still being stored: The situation is serious, and winter is coming.”
Now, as per a Euractiv report, if Russia keeps the gas flow at restricted levels in near future, the country may have to stop exporting gas to its European allies. If that happens, Berlin may end up deteriorating its diplomatic and trade ties with its EU allies in order to keep its own industries up and running. Without the gas from Nord Stream 1 and continued exports, gas shortages in Germany would begin from mid-December. With 20% gas savings and LNG import capacity in place, 44 Terawatt hours (TWh) of gas would still be missing, which translates into an economic catastrophe for the nation.
Reserves to offer little help
Such is the gravity of the situation that Germany is bound to face a threatening gas crisis even if its reservoirs are full up to the brim. Germany’s energy official Klaus Müller recently predicted that Germany could manage only for two and a half months without Russian energy imports if the storage facilities are “mathematically 100% full.” Müller also warned that consumers in Germany might see a two or three-fold increase in their gas bills especially as the country faces the prospect of Russian gas supplies being stopped.
All in all, without Russian energy, Germany is fast approaching its doomsday. Higher inflation is inevitable, which could even lead to civil unrest in the country. In the face of Germany blocking gas supplies to other European nations, Berlin’s diplomatic standing in the bloc is bound to take a severe hit. In that situation, Germany would become the first big European nation to raise the white flag.
Why Germany would opt out of EU sanctions?
Germany has always preferred a working, if not cordial, relationship with Russia. In the former chancellor Angela Merkel’s own words, Russia is a European nation that the EU can’t afford to ostracize. At the end of the day, Germany doesn’t necessarily need to self-sacrifice its economy and interests in order to save Ukraine’s sinking fortunes.
Germany may soon realize its economic war against Russia is unaffordable and unsustainable. So, we may soon see Germany reach out to Russia for a “peace proposal,” which would eventually force Berlin to opt-out of EU’s sanction regime against the Russian economy.
And then, we would see a domino effect in action across European capitals. France, Italy and Spain will follow the suit in order to shore up their economies. This would also force Germany to activate the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline and reach long-term gas contracts with Gazprom. Thus, Germany’s plans to leisurely phase out Russian energy under the pre-determined ostentatious deadlines would be killed in the womb. In the end, Germany and Russia would end up becoming even greater trading partners.