Germany can no longer ignore the costs of its dependence on Russian energy

The most perverse response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine has been to impose sanctions on named individuals while bolstering the Kremlin’s war chest by buying oil and gas. The worst offenders are countries like Germany and Italy, which import more than a third of their energy needs from Russia. Eastern European countries like Hungary are even more dependent.

Stopping these purchases would mean serious economic hardship that European countries are unwilling to accept. The UK, while less dependent, is still buying energy while also giving arms to Ukraine to fight the country we otherwise help fund. According to one estimate, Britain has given Russia enough money to buy 8,000 main battle tanks since annexing Crimea in 2014.

The government has announced a gradual reduction in the relatively small volume of imports from Russia, with the aim of eliminating it by the end of the year. But that will make little difference to Vladimir Putin unless the big payers do the same. The EU is having crucial discussions this week about further sanctions aimed at halting all oil imports by the end of the year, but there are serious disagreements. Hungary has said it will veto the plan unless an exemption is granted.

The main player is Germany, which has called for a phased ban despite Chancellor Olaf Scholz changing policy almost weekly. Berlin has indicated it is now in favor of an embargo but needs time to prepare for an end to crude oil supplies from Russia. But they cannot escape the fact that in order to help Ukraine withstand Russian aggression, they must be prepared to take an economic hit. Germany can no longer ignore the costs of its dependence on Russian energy

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