German state agency reveals how gas shortage affects public life
A 2018 stress test run by the German civil defense agency, the BBK, found that all crucial services will be impacted by a gas supply shortage. Newspaper Die Welt revisited the exercise on Tuesday amid calls for Berlin to stop purchasing energy from Russia as part of sanctions in response to Moscow's ongoing military campaign against Ukraine.
The two-day crisis management exercise Lukex 18, which involved several states in southern Germany, found that the shortage of gas supply will have “a drastic effect on public life,” including the closure of public and private facilities.
The disruption of supply will also lead to “far-reaching, difficult-to-predict consequences for the service sector and the production of goods,” according to the BBK.
The BBK warned of personnel shortages because people will be unable to drop their children off at daycare centers, while hospitals and retirement homes may have trouble preparing meals.
“Likewise, a high number of illnesses related to the cold are to be expected,” the agency said, adding that it will also lead to staff shortages in government departments, police, and civil protection services.
The agency also said that during prolonged cold some people, especially those living in cities, might resort to keeping themselves warm by using fireplaces at home, or building makeshift fireplaces, which will lead to a spike in fires.
In a video released on Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, once again, asked Germany to stop buying energy from Russia. Some German politicians share the urgency. “I think it'll be tough, but doable, and that's why we should do it. But instead, the economy minister is spreading catastrophic scenarios,” Norbert Roettgen, an MP, told reporters last week.
Berlin agreed to look for alternative suppliers and reached a deal to get liquefied natural gas from Qatar this week. However, the country has been hesitant to do away with Russian oil and gas just yet.
Economy Minister Robert Habeck warned last week that Germany will see more unemployment and poverty if it immediately pulls the plug on Russian gas. “If we do not obtain more gas next winter and if deliveries from Russia were to be cut, then we would not have enough gas to heat all our houses and keep all our industry going,” Habeck said on Monday.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz reiterated on Tuesday that sanctions were “the right approach,” emphasizing that they also must be “bearable in terms of the repercussions for the development of the national economy.”
US President Joe Biden will meet European leaders in Brussels on Thursday, as the White House prepares to unveil new sanctions, Jake Sullivan, the US national security adviser, said. Washington banned imports of Russian energy this month, and has been long pressuring states like Germany to do the same.
Moscow attacked its neighbor in late February, following a seven-year standoff over Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, and Russia’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics in Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered protocols had been designed to regularize the status of those regions within the Ukrainian state.
Russia has demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked, denying claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.