On Thursday, Germany activated the “alarm phase” of its gas emergency plan in response to the decline in Russian supplies, but did not allow utilities to pass on the increase in energy costs to customers in the largest European economy.
The move is the latest escalation of a standoff between Europe and Moscow since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has exposed the blockade’s reliance on Russian gas supplies and sparked a frenzied search for alternative energy sources.
The step is largely symbolic, signaling to businesses and families that painful cuts are on the way. But it marks a major shift for Germany, which has cultivated strong energy ties with Moscow since the Cold War.
Lower gas flows this week sparked warnings that Germany could slide into recession if Russian supplies stop completely. A major poll on Thursday showed the economy was losing strength in the second quarter.
“We cannot be fooled: cutting gas supplies is an economic attack on us by (Russian President Vladimir) Putin,” Economy Minister Robert Habeck said in a statement.
Gas rationing will hopefully be avoided, but it cannot be ruled out, Habeck said, warning: “At the moment, gas is a scarce commodity in Germany … gas, now in the summer.”
Russia denied that the supply cuts were deliberate, with state-owned supplier Gazprom accusing a delay in returning the repaired equipment caused by Western sanctions. The Kremlin said Thursday that Russia has “strictly discharged all its obligations” to Europe.