Hypocritical Germany is brought to its knees
Would you like the government to tell you not to spend more than five minutes in the shower – or even to share a bath with a friend? This is what is happening in Germany, where energy rationing now seems inevitable. The crisis caused by Berlin’s reliance on Russian gas and oil pales in comparison to our own cost-of-living crisis.
This week alarm bells went off across the continent when Russia shut down the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline, supposedly for “routine maintenance”, until next week. Will the Kremlin turn it back on? Vladimir Putin promises that Russia is always “ready to fulfill its obligations”, but few now trust the butcher of Bucha.
Not only the German public, but also their government is panicking about what will happen next. The gas is stored in huge underground freezers, but unless usage is drastically curtailed, supplies are expected to run out by January.
If that were the case, Germany would face its worst recession since the 1940s, with the economy shrinking by more than 12%, output in the flagship auto industry falling by 17% and up to six million jobs at risk. Families’ fuel bills are already set to rise by €2,000 a year and there are plans to provide emergency accommodation in town halls for those unable to heat their homes.
Thus, Robert Habeck, the Vice-Chancellor of the Green Party, calls on families to reduce their consumption. “I never showered during [as long as] five minutes of my life,” he says. The Minister of Energy boasts of turning off his heating all day in winter because he is always absent. It’s cold comfort for families and the elderly, who don’t have a warm ministerial office to go to. However, some owners are already threatening to lower the heating in buildings, while local authorities are even turning off public lighting.
The Germans used to lecture their neighbors on environmental virtues. Not anymore: fossil fuels like gas are now considered “clean”, while coal-fired power plants are back in service.
A bitter blame game has erupted over the disastrous decision to phase out nuclear power a decade ago, leaving the country entirely dependent on Russia. The reputation of once idolized Angela Merkel is in tatters, but her successor, Olaf Scholz, is held responsible by two-thirds of voters for the failure to safeguard energy security. The entire German political establishment was caught with the green pants down. Even a normally docile press cannot ignore the crass hypocrisy of an elite who preached ‘net zero’ to the rest of Europe, but are now going in the opposite direction.
This collective hypocrisy goes far beyond energy policy. Despite their crocodile tears about the war, to save their own skins, Scholz and his coalition are actually throwing Ukraine under a bus. Apart from a handful of howitzers, Berlin has neither given heavy weapons to Kyiv nor increased their production.
Meanwhile, Scholz’s hike in military spending, announced last February, turns out to have been a flash in the pan. The reduced German armed forces are to be further reduced next year.
Even the allegedly belligerent Greens foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, is now simply wringing her hands and saying “there is nothing to be done”. The prospect of rationing has already lowered public support for Ukraine: as food and energy prices continue to rise, 38% of Germans want no punitive action against Russia .
Scholz is trying to appease both his NATO allies and Putin, but hasn’t earned the respect of either. In eastern, central and northern Europe, meanwhile, Germany under Scholz is more despised and suspicious than at any time since 1945.
Either an all-powerful collapse in Berlin is brewing, with a real possibility that the ruling “traffic light” coalition will implode, or it will capitulate to Putin.
Last week, Scholz and his colleagues toasted the fall of Boris Johnson. But the German Chancellor faces his own nightmare scenario; his schadenfreude may be short-lived.
Once admired and envied, Germany is today the epitome of the damage misguided foreign and energy policy can cause.
Daniel Johnson is the editor of TheArticle