Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Thursday that preparations to limit Germany’s exposure to Russian energy imports were under way even before President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine. While Russian coal is already being phased out, gas is more difficult, he said in Tokyo after talks with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.
“Any disruption has an impact on the economy, the government is very clear about that,” Scholz said, referring to Russian gas imports. “That’s why it’s one of the things that wasn’t immediately included in sanctions.”
Germany, which has cut its reliance on Russian gas to 35% from 55% last year, has warned that a sudden halt in deliveries of the fuel would plunge Europe’s largest economy into recession. As it seeks to put pressure on the Kremlin over its invasion of Ukraine, the government is phasing out Russian coal and has said halting oil imports from the country would be “manageable.”
Tensions have been on the rise after Moscow cut off gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria over its demands to pay for deliveries in rubles. Germany has said companies should continue to pay into accounts in euros or dollars and leave it up to Gazprombank PJSC to do the conversion. It’s unclear whether this method would be accepted.
“Whatever the Russian government decides on this, we can only speculate but that doesn’t make a lot of sense,” said Scholz. “You have to prepare for it, and we already started this before the war broke out. We know what we have to do.”