Germany says Russia will lose energy customers to Ukraine | Associated press

BERLIN (AP) – Germany’s vice chancellor said Thursday that Russia’s attack on Ukraine was “completely illogical” and would backfire, forcing Western countries to stop buying coal, oil and Russian gas – an important source of income for the resource-rich country.

Robert Habeck, a powerful figure in Germany’s new government whose portfolio includes the economy and climate, said the crisis will strengthen the case for Russian fossil fuel customers to pursue energy independence by boosting renewable sources.

“From a rational point of view, it’s completely illogical,” he told The Associated Press in an interview hours after Russia unleashed its military might against its smaller neighbor.

“The entire West will turn away from Russia,” he said. “We are going to diversify our energy system. We will not buy so much Russian coal and gas in the future.

Germany currently gets about half of its natural gas and coal from Russia, and a third of its oil.

Allies such as the United States have long warned that Europe’s largest economy‘s heavy reliance on Russian energy imports poses a strategic risk given growing friction with Moscow. Until recently, German officials insisted that Russia had proven to be a reliable supplier and even backed the construction of a new gas pipeline across the Baltic Sea, despite protests from the United States and others. allies.

Germany halted the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project on Tuesday as tensions with Russia over Ukraine escalated – a move that was applauded in Washington and Kyiv.

Habeck said measures to bolster gas reserves in recent months, along with a welcome abundance of wind power after a windy February, had helped stave off a shortage for consumers as gas prices energy was skyrocketing and Russia was holding back additional supplies.

“We see a direct effect: the more renewable energy there is on the market, the less natural gas we use,” he said.

“I really think the current situation will help the transition to renewable energy in Germany and Europe,” he told the AP from his office in Berlin. “People are seeing that it’s not just a climate-related issue, but a safety or security-related issue right now.

Extending the life of Germany’s three remaining nuclear power plants is not an option, and building terminals for tankers filled with liquefied natural gas – an idea that Habeck’s Green Party was previously skeptical of – will take years, a- he declared.

Still, Germany is seeking LNG from suppliers such as Qatar to cover any short-term shortages.

Habeck acknowledged that, on the diplomatic front, Germany’s efforts to foster talks with Moscow by refusing to supply arms to Ukraine had failed.

“From the German point of view, we were trying to keep the line open to diplomacy,” he said. “We thought it was a good idea not to deliver arms to Ukraine, because it would reduce the possibility of talks. That was our strategy, actually. It didn’t work.”

Sanctions imposed earlier this week also did not deter Russia from sending troops to Ukraine, he said. “But we can step up the pressure on (Russian President Vladimir) Putin and his people, and then we’ll wait to see what comes of it.”

Habeck said he believed Putin should personally face sanctions for his actions against Ukraine, and expressed doubts about the usefulness of further talks with the Russian leader.

“I think we have to talk with Russia, and Russia is more than Putin,” he said. “I hope that some people will speak for the other Russia, and that they have a voice that can be heard and that they will not be suppressed.”

Habeck said he was moved by a visit to the Ukrainian embassy in Berlin, where tearful staff expressed fear for loved ones left behind amid the Russian advance.

Habeck said he still wanted to make his first official visit to the United States next week, crisis permitting, arguing that it was vital to further strengthen the transatlantic partnership.

The trip was to include meetings with senior US officials and a visit to the Deep South, where several large German companies have manufacturing plants.

“In a way, it’s the best time to go,” he said. “We have a lot of things to discuss: trade issues, relations (with) China, but of course in the current situation I also expect security issues and the security issues of the energy supply are of the utmost importance.”

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