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German gas embargo could help end Ukraine war, says expert

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German gas embargo could help end Ukraine war, says expert
A woman walks past a burnt-out building in Mariupol, Ukraine. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/XinHua | Victor

A debate is raging in Germany over whether the government should put in place an immediate stop to Russian energy imports. The question is, could a move like this be helpful in stopping the war? According to one expert, the answer is yes.

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Experts on Russia and security policy believe that a ban on energy imports on Russia could hit the Kremlin where it hurts. 

Speaking to Tagesschau, Janis Kluge, a senior associate at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, described an energy embargo as the "ideal sanction" due to maximal impact on the Russian government and minimal impact on civilians.

"The state budget, from which the military is financed, would be weakened," he explained. "Moreover, the collateral damage for the Russian population would not be as high as with other measures. A boycott of gas would be a targeted instrument that hits exactly the right people."

According to Kluge, the income from oil and gas exports is "of existential importance to the Kremlin". Even with hard-hitting sanctions on oligarchs and Russian banks, the government continues to be able to finance itself through its energy revenues.

"As long as this income exists, Putin can continue to pay the security agencies and subsidise the companies that are crucial to maintaining his power," Kluge added.

READ ALSO: What would happen if Germany stopped accepting Russian gas?

Sanctions carve-outs for energy

Countries in the West have imposed tough sanctions of Russia since the start of its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

But many European nations, including Germany, are reluctant to include the energy sector in the sanctions due the feared impact on industry and the economy. 

At present, Germany receives around 40 percent of its natural gas, 37 percent of its oil and 57 percent of it coal from Russia, making it heavily reliant on the hostile state for its energy needs. 

This is one of the key reasons why Germany originally vetoed excluding Russia from the SWIFT payment system - which enables international transactions - at the outbreak of the war in Ukraine. 

EU and Ukrainian flags in Brussels

The flags of the European Union member states fly alongside the Ukrainian flag in Brussels. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/AP | Jean-Francois Badias

EU member states were eventually able to agree on a SWIFT ban - but, largely due to pressure from Germany, the measure included a carve-out for banks such as Gazprom that allowed countries to continue to pay for Russian energy.

However, as further reports of brutalities by Russian forces emerge, activists are stepping up pressure on the government to enforce an immediate energy embargo and complete exclusion of Russia from SWIFT. 

This, according to the Kluge, would be by far the most effective way to ensure immense damage to the Russian economy and create leverage that the West could use to bring an end to the war. 

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"An embargo strikes right at the heart of Russian power," he said. "Moreover, an import ban on Russian energy can be quickly lifted and thus reward a possible ceasefire. This creates a bargaining chip."

READ ALSO: Germany examines Russian gas payment terms as supply fears grow

For now, however, Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) and other cabinet officials continue to reject the idea, with Finance Minister Christian Linder (FDP) saying the government needed "more time" to organise alternative energy sources.

At present, the government has set a goal of weaning itself off Russian oil imports by the end of 2022 and ending natural gas imports by summer 2024. 

For those calling for immediate action to bring the war to an end, however, this is far too late. 

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Anonymous 2022/04/05 22:48
The Ukraine conflict could be solved instantly. 1. Ukraine will not join nato. But will be under nato protection from further invasion. 2. The areas under contention will be resolved around a table. Not a mortar. 3. Nazism will be routed out as it has always been unacceptable view. 4. Military exclusion zones will be set up 40km East and west of Ukraine and Russia (all disputed areas will be protected by the exclusion zones. ). The entire conflict would end. But despite all of the suffering. There is profit to be made. So it won't be solved until everyone has had their fill. Some investment banks ETC are due to make 300% profit from this conflict. Why would it end until the goose is cooked.

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