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Opinion: Rethinking sanctions in France, stubbornness in Germany?

By Alexander Männer

(Opinion) Since the end of February, the U.S., the European Union, and numerous other countries have imposed tough sanctions on Russia, intended to respond to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and to force Moscow to back down.

For its part, Russia has responded with countermeasures.

One consequence of this sanctions war is worsening the energy crisis in Europe, which could have catastrophic consequences for Germany and, thus, for the entire EU.

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In this regard, for example, the situation surrounding Germany’s energy supply, whose successful economic model is based mainly on cheap energy sources from Russia, had already deteriorated highly in the summer after the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline, which at the time brought most of the Russian gas directly to the Federal Republic, could not be put into operation following repair work.

Russia, Opinion: Rethinking sanctions in France, stubbornness in Germany?
Sanctions against Russia are at the center of the European energy crisis. (Photo internet reproduction)

Things became critical, however, after the pipeline in question suffered severe damage due to an attack in September and was presumably out of service for an extended period.

As a result, gas imports from Russia have been reduced by more than 60 percent, which has hurt pricing.

The resulting panic among German consumers revealed the true importance of Russian gas supplies and showed what the sanctions against Russia meant for Germany and the other EU countries.

The current perspective is as follows: The longer the sanctions last – i.e., the longer cheap Russian gas imports stay away – the worse things will get.

An improvement in the situation depends primarily on when the EU and Russia normalize their trade relations again.

RETHINKING IN FRANCE

More and more European citizens and high-ranking politicians of EU countries are becoming aware of this fact.

For example, France’s Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire, who in early March had called for a ”complete economic and financial war against Russia” and threatened Russia with a collapse of its economy, has fundamentally changed his rhetoric regarding sanctions.

In late August, according to the Turkish newspaper Anadolu, Le Maire warned that a complete halt to Russian gas exports to France could hurt the country’s economy in light of the coming winter months.

At the beginning of October, the minister became publicly clear for the first time regarding the sanctions and, in particular, the role of the United States.

As Politico magazine writes, Le Maire told the French parliament on Monday that Europe should not be subjected to U.S. ”domination” because it was just becoming increasingly dependent on U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG).

”We must not allow the conflict in Ukraine to lead to American economic dominance and a weakening of Europe,” the politician said.

More than that, he accused the U.S. of driving up LNG prices due to energy shortages and called for a ”more balanced economic relationship on the energy issue” between the Americans and Europeans.

”We cannot accept that our American partner sells its LNG at four times the price it sells to its own companies,” Le Maire said.

With that, the French minister addresses a critical issue that Europeans have tried not to notice.

While Russia is perfectly capable of functioning economically without a European market, the sanctions have proven that Europe is at a loss without Russian resources.

GERMANY REMAINS STUBBORN

While a rethink is taking place in France to overcome the energy crisis, Germany continues to take a stubborn stance.

For example, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz continues to hold Putin solely responsible for the difficult economic situation in Europe.

According to Deutschlandfunk radio, Scholz told the Bundestag in a government statement at the start of the EU summit last Thursday that Putin was speculating “on our weakness.”

However, he said the Russian president was wrong and that he would not achieve his war aims because Germany and Europe were standing together.

Putin also miscalculated with the blackmail using cutting gas supplies, the chancellor said.

Scholz had recently stated in connection with the Ukraine war, among other things, according to the portal Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland, that Russia’s head of state was leading a larger crusade against the West with his attack against Ukraine.

According to the statement, Putin was fighting against liberal democracy, a rules-based international order, freedom, and progress.

“That’s why Ukraine must stand its ground,” Scholz said, assuring that Ukrainians would be supported against Russia for as long as necessary.

He also urged that unity on fundamental values should not be forgotten in Germany and with international partners in the face of possible differences on individual issues.

Vice Chancellor and Economics Minister Robert Habeck also see the cause of the energy crisis and high inflation as being Putin and his intervention in Ukraine rather than the German government’s sanctions policy.

The solution, in Habeck’s view – was a defeat of the Russians on the battlefield,

“Putin must not win. Whatever is bothering us, Putin must not win. Not on the battlefield, not even in the economic war against Europe and Germany,” the minister said at the recent Green Party conference in Bonn.

Regarding the economic consequences of the conflict with Russia, Habeck knows that the coming winter will be harsh “for all of Germany.”

But one will be stronger despite the problems and grow from it “as a party, as Germany, as Europe, to which Ukraine belongs,” the politician said.

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