War in Ukraine: Scholz refuses to immediately cut German imports of Russian oil and gas | International

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz during Wednesday's session in the Bundestag.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz during Wednesday’s session in the Bundestag.MICHELE TANTUSSI (REUTERS)

Pressure from other European Union partners on Germany to agree to stronger energy sanctions against Russia is not having an effect. At least for now. Foreign Minister Olaf Scholz remains firm in his decision not to immediately give up energy supplies from Moscow. Germany could not afford it, Scholz assured Wednesday in the Bundestag. The German economy could go into recession and that “would not benefit anyone,” he added. The chancellor recalled, in the first session dedicated to the budgets, that the sanctions should not “hit the European states more than the Russian leaders”.

The European Union is considering including the energy sector in the sanctions against Russia, but wants to ensure that this step does not break the iron unity that the member states have maintained since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began on February 24. Germany and other countries also highly dependent on Russian hydrocarbons argue that their economies would be severely affected if the import of gas or oil were prohibited. 55% of the gas that feeds German industry and heating comes from Russia. Also a third of oil.

Change of energy model

The German government is determined to accelerate a radical change in its energy policy to end dependence on Russia, but Scholz recalled that it is not a task that can be done “overnight”. The foreign minister announced that the ports to unload and regasify the liquefied natural gas with which the gas that arrives by gas pipeline from Russia will be replaced will be built “much faster than before”, in reference to the multiple bureaucratic and administrative procedures that this type usually entails. of facilities in Germany. The procedures for homologating wind turbines and solar fields will be accelerated to avoid the long waits that these projects have accumulated until now.

Scholz began his speech by assuring Ukraine that it can count on Germany’s solidarity. He went directly to the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, who last week intervened in the Bundestag to make Germany ugly for having prioritized economic relations with Putin’s Russia. Then Scholz did not answer him. Deputies gave the Ukrainian leader a standing ovation before and after his speech, but no one intervened to reply. Scholz assures this Wednesday in an interview in Die Zeit which is what marks the tradition when a foreign statesman speaks in the hemicycle, but recognizes that it was not the right thing to do.

Germany has been supplying weapons to Ukraine since the beginning of the invasion, but it is unknown how many have actually reached their destination. The Ukrainian ambassador to Germany, Andrej Melnik, has criticized Berlin for not sending the supplies that kyiv has requested, including armored cars and fighter jets. In his address to the Bundestag, Scholz avoided specifying which German weapons Ukraine has received.

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The foreign minister drew a clear limit on his commitment to kyiv: “NATO will not become part of this war,” he assured, reiterating his rejection of establishing a no-fly zone guaranteed by the Alliance. The aid to the refugees will be “comprehensive”, he promised. “It is not yet clear how many Ukrainian women, men and children will seek refuge among us. All we know is that there will be many and they are welcome here,” he noted. The federal government is still discussing with the federated states how to share the economic burden of accommodation, maintenance, schooling and health that will guarantee Ukrainian refugees.

Warning to Putin

The German chancellor has revealed in an interview published this Wednesday by the weekly Die Zeit who has directly warned the Russian president against the use of chemical and biological weapons in Ukraine, something that would be “inexcusable”. Scholz says you have to keep diplomatic channels open and be on the phone to talk to Putin at any time. Regarding the long conversation he had with him before the attack began, he has said that it helped him to have a direct impression of him, although he never had any illusions about his intentions: “In Moscow, he did not answer a very clear question: Can you assure me that you will not invade Ukraine?

When asked if he would impose more sanctions if Putin used this type of weapon, Scholz replied: “In a direct conversation I warned him [a Putin] against its use. Russian claims that Ukraine is developing biological and chemical weapons or that the United States intends to use them are false and seem to me to be an implicit threat that Putin himself is considering using them. That is why it was important for me to tell him clearly and directly: that would be unacceptable and inexcusable. No one should even think about that.”

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