Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Economy

How decades of complacency left Germany facing a cold, dark winter

But the panic and outrage now brewing extends far beyond the ranks of “unteachable” extremists.

The Germans feel that irresponsible elites have handed over their country’s fortunes to Putin. The more they have to pay him for Russian gas, the bigger his war chest with which to commit genocide in Ukraine.

Forcing Germany to be complicit in a colossal crime against humanity is a diabolical twist on the vengeance Putin is now wreaking on Europe for supporting Ukraine. Corresponding The economistChristian Odendahl, at current prices, Germany has to spend 8.4 percent of its GDP on gas. Previously it was only 1 percent.

Preparations are already underway to ration or even shut down central heating, forcing residents to seek shelter in schools or town halls.

The country is scrambling to reduce its reliance on gas with a campaign to cut budgets, and a massive national effort has gas storage tanks 81 percent full.

Food prices, meanwhile, rose nearly 15 percent in July. Those who fear they cannot afford to heat their homes or feed their families become victims of fear and anger.

Actions have consequences…or do they?

Few predicted the Russian invasion of Ukraine, let alone its devastating consequences for Europe. But it is dawning on the German people that the seeds of the current crisis were sown in a quarter century from 1998 to 2022 under Angela Merkel and her predecessor Gerhard Schröder.

These were the years of plenty for Germany, as Berlin dominated the European Union, ensuring its export-oriented economy benefited from the single currency while the social costs were passed on to its poorer neighbors. But Germany’s dirty secret was cheap Russian energy.

Under Schröder – who later became one of Putin’s “useful idiots” – German industry began to abandon its post-war reliance on coal and nuclear power in favor of Russian gas and renewable energy.

In 2011, after the Fukushima accident, Ms. Merkel announced the shutdown of all German nuclear power plants. It was a Pyrrhic victory for the Greens, but supported by all major parties. Public opinion was turned against nuclear energy in the 1980s by the Soviet-funded “peace movement.” Now the Greens are the backbone of the Scholz coalition.

Even in the country’s current situation, the Green Vice Chancellor and Minister for the Environment, Robert Habeck, refuses to reverse the nuclear phase-out in order to defuse the energy crisis, although it is still possible to reactivate some nuclear power plants in the long term.

But Berlin is demanding that 26 other EU member states massively cut energy consumption this winter to help Germany – to the chagrin of Spaniards and others who don’t depend on Russian gas and who recall lectures from Berlin during the euro crisis about measures to be taken to have.

For decades, the Kremlin acted as Germany’s geopolitical drug dealer, enticing Berlin to become ever more dependent on the energy that powered its manufacturing, pharmaceutical, and chemical plants. Now that Germans are about to go cold turkey, they are discovering how cynically the national interest has been betrayed by their politicians and captains of industry.

With Schröder as seller, a new Nord Stream 2 pipeline was being built under the Baltic Sea – with the blessing of Ms Merkel, who fended off Anglo-American pressure to shut down what was seen as a threat to Europe’s energy security.

When Russian tanks rallied on the Ukrainian border last year and NATO warned of an impending invasion, Gazprom redoubled its efforts to keep the flagship project on course.

The Russian energy giant invested 192 million euros in an environmental foundation set up by Manuela Schwesig, the Social Democratic prime minister of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania – the state that hosted Nord Stream 2 and would benefit most from it. She went on to denounce the US for opposing the pipeline, claiming that American sanctions were purely self-interested.