Why Germany is hooked on Russian gas

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How Germany got stuck paying for Russia's war.

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Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the EU has sanctioned much of Russia’s economy, but Russia’s natural gas trade remains untouched. The EU gets nearly a quarter of its energy from natural gas, and almost half of that comes from Russia, the world’s largest gas exporter. As the EU’s largest economy, Germany is Russia’s biggest customer, paying Russia’s state-owned gas company 200 million euros. So while Germany has even sent Ukraine weapons, in a historic shift of military policy, through its gas supply Germany is helping to pay for the war it’s trying to stop.

It’s inherently hard to pivot away from piped gas. Unlike oil and coal, which can be rerouted, gas pipelines cost billions, take years to build, and physically connect producer and buyer directly, making them long-term commitments. That was the origin of Germany’s dependence on Russian gas, and over time it’s only deepened. Today, as the world tries to punish Russia through sanctions, that dependence is getting in the way.

Sources for additional reading:

Explore the world’s natural gas pipelines (and so much more!) with the Global Energy Monitor’s map:
https://globalenergymonitor.org/

Check out this explorer from IEA that showcases the world’s reliance on Russia’s fossil fuels. You can select natural gas in the dropdown menu to get that specific data: https://www.iea.org/reports/reliance-on-russian-fossil-fuels-data-explorer

This tracker from the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air shows how much money Europe has spent on Russian fossil fuels since the war in Ukraine began: https://beyond-coal.eu/russian-fossil-fuel-tracker/

This review of Power of Connection: Why the Russia-Europe gas trade is strangely untouched by politics by Thane Gustafson is a good summary of the strong link natural gas pipelines create between producers and buyers:
https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-03694-y

If you want to dive into German-Russian natural gas relations, check out this research paper by Aurelie Bros: https://www.swp-berlin.org/publications/products/research_papers/2017RP13_wep_EtAl.pdf

The 2009 gas dispute that became a warning for Europe is explained in detail here:
https://www.oxfordenergy.org/wpcms/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/NG27-TheRussoUkrainianGasDisputeofJanuary2009AComprehensiveAssessment-JonathanSternSimonPiraniKatjaYafimava-2009.pdf

Here you can check out the EU’s sanctions on Russia since the war in Ukraine began:
https://ec.europa.eu/info/business-economy-euro/banking-and-finance/international-relations/restrictive-measures-sanctions/sanctions-adopted-following-russias-military-aggression-against-ukraine_en

And, finally, we recommend these two books for anyone who wants to go even deeper into the topic:

Red Gas: Russia and the origins of European energy dependence by Per Högselius: https://www.amazon.com/Red-Gas-Dependence-Macmillan-Transnational/dp/1137293713

Russian Energy Chains: The remaking of technopolitics from Siberia to Ukraine to the European Union by Margarita Balmaceda:
https://www.foreignaffairs.com/reviews/capsule-review/2021-10-19/russian-energy-chains-remaking-technopolitics-siberia-ukraine

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