A German View on the Invasion of Ukraine

By Hans-josef Fell

The geopolitical upheaval surrounding Ukraine are in part the result of the EU’s dependence on fossil fuels and the faltering transition to renewable energy.

Note: Fell is a former member of the German Bundestag and a co-author of Germany’s Renewable Energy Sources Act, the renewable energy policy that led Germany to become a one-time renewable energy powerhouse. This essay has been machine translated by Google.

The Russian attack on Ukraine violates international law and is unjustified. Russia must withdraw immediately.

For decades there have been warnings that the heavy dependence on energy imports of industrialized nations such as Germany in the fossil and nuclear sectors poses serious security risks. Today we see a massive increase in these geopolitical upheavals and even an increasing risk of war as a result of heavy energy dependencies.

The lack of conversion to domestic renewable energies, especially in the last decade under the Chancellorship of Merkel, was one of the main reasons why the EU and Germany do not have sufficient political means to deal with the Russian war threat from the deployment of over 130,000 Russian soldiers to counter something substantial at the Ukrainian border.

Russia’s military attack on Ukraine, which violates international law, could also not be prevented because Russia is in a strong position of power with the EU’s immense energy dependency. The fact that the EU and Germany, under pressure from the natural gas and oil lobby, continued to rely on fossil energies instead of domestic renewable energies over the past decade is now taking its toll.

The EU’s massive dependence on supplies of energy raw materials from Russia has led to great political impotence in the conflict over Ukraine. Even the recognition of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions as independent could not be prevented by the West, because the West kept buying energy, in the last six months even with significantly higher revenues for Russia’s war chest. About 70% of Russian state revenues come from the energy business with oil, natural gas, coal and nuclear fuel elements.

In this way, Russia was able to amass considerable wealth with the income from oil, gas, coal and nuclear technology, which made Russia’s massive rearmament possible in the first place. At the same time, this self-created energy dependency of the EU has led to the belief that it cannot do without Russian energy supplies. To secure the energy supply, the EU could not announce any threats of sanctions, let alone implement them. It is certainly no coincidence that the escalation of violence against Ukraine comes at the very moment when the EU economy is already in crisis due to high fossil fuel prices.

In response to the recognition of the eastern Ukrainian regions, EU Commission President von der Leyen and the German government have announced sanctions. They had remained very nebulous in the previous weeks, raising fears that they would remain as weak and ineffective as the EU and US sanctions after the Crimea occupation. With the Russian attack, you can now see that Russia hardly takes the sanctions seriously. Only Chancellor Scholz’s announcement that the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline will not be certified for the time being is a step that is long overdue. This shows that the natural gas policy he implemented in the coalition agreement was wrong from the outset and disregarded the geopolitical dangers it contained.

President Putin knows very well that Germany and the EU cannot significantly endanger Russia’s crucial state revenues in the short or medium term. An import ban on Russian natural gas, oil, hard coal and fuel elements would lead to an economic burden in the EU that would go far beyond today’s energy price increases. A collapse of the economy due to a lack of or too expensive energy resources, riots by the population because of cold apartments and a lack of fuel for cars and trucks, food shortages and expensive food due to a lack of or too expensive fertilizers, pesticides, transport energy would be the quick result.

With an oil price of just under 100 US dollars per barrel, 23% of German companies already classify the current energy prices as threatening their very existence, 65% speak of a “strong challenge”. Many media and companies still see taxes and levies as the main cause of energy price increases. The main causes are the sharp rise in prices for natural gas (+60%), crude oil (+43%) and hard coal (+180%) since mid-2021, which are driving up energy prices despite the sharp fall in solar and wind energy costs.

Most of these companies, now under massive pressure, from BASF to natural gas utilities, have a great deal of complicity in their own misery. It was they who lobbied against the expansion of renewable energies for decades and thus obstructed political support for renewable energies, as well as in their own company.