Millions of Germans are bracing for a bitterly cold winter amid fears Russian President Vladimir Putin could wage a political war in revenge for the Western sanctions fired at his country over the war in Ukraine. Russian state-owned supplier Gazprom said flows along Nord Stream 1 – Germany’s largest gas pipeline – will slump to just 33 million cubic metres per day – a fifth of the normal capacity. The Kremlin has insisted a gas turbine for the pipeline has not yet arrived after maintenance in Canada and that a second turbine is now showing defects.
But the European Union has repeatedly accused Russia of resorting to energy blackmail and claims the move is “politically motivated”.
There are now huge fears over energy rationing in Germany and the possibility of energy bills tripling, sending already-alarming inflation skyrocketing further.
An eye-watering £240billion could be wiped off the EU’s largest economy, with no sign of a speedy recovery heading into 2024.
Clemens Fuest, a German economist who is President of the Ifo Institute for Economic Research and director of the Centre for Economic Studies at the University of Munich, simply warned: “Germany is on the cusp of a recession.”
Many are pinning the blame for the escalating crisis on former German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her numerous Governments.
Viktorija Starych-Samuolienė, co-founder of think-tank Council on Geostrategy, told MailOnline: “Germany is in for a rough winter due to its heavy reliance on Russian gas.
“Despite repeated warnings about the risks of this reliance successive German governments have only deepened it, opening the country up to the risk of Russia doing exactly what it looks to be doing – using gas as a weapon.”
Germany ultimately appears most at risk than other European countries as according to EU figures, 52.5billion cubic metres of gas was imported in 2020 – around double the next-closest nation, Italy, on 28billion.
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Germany is desperately trying to save companies under huge pressure from the energy crisis, with £15billion handed to Uniper – one of its largest suppliers – which could have come close to going out of business.
Regional leaders and large firms are trying to urge millions of Germans to reduce central heating temperatures and undertake several other energy-saving options in their homes.
This comes with EU member states approving an emergency plan to reduce gas demand after striking compromise deals to curb reductions for some countries.
Energy ministers gave the go-ahead for all EU countries to voluntarily cut gas use by 15 percent in the August to March period versus the average from 2017-2021.
The EU’s energy chief Kadri Simson said the new agreement should ensure countries save enough gas to survive an average winter if Russia does turn off the gas tap now, but also warned an usually cold winter would require more severe measures.
However, there are also still fears the new savings will still not be enough to avoid a winter gas crisis.
Levels vary greatly between the member states, but the bloc as a whole has only reduced its combined gas use by five percent – despite prices soaring and the problem of shortening Russian supplies over recent months.
Irish Environment Minister Eamon Ryan warned: “Fifteen percent will probably not be enough, given what the Russians have just announced.”