Expert: A full embargo on Russian energy could take months

Estonian Foreign Policy Institute director Kristi Raik.
Estonian Foreign Policy Institute director Kristi Raik. Source: ERR

It could take the European Union months to agree to ban Russian energy imports, Director of the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute Kristi Raik said. She described it as appalling that Germany has so far held its economic considerations above the suffering of Ukrainians

The European Parliament passed a resolution on Thursday demanding a full embargo on Russian energy imports, from oil and gas to nuclear fuel and coal. The European Commission on Tuesday proposed extending Russian sanctions, including a coal imports ban. But member states are split on the former issue.

Raik said on the "Ringvaade" show that the European Parliament's Thursday resolution has no bearing on developments as member states are in charge of foreign policy. She added that she hopes the resolution is at least an indicator of things to come.

The expert said that Germany especially is not ready to abandon Russian energy. "Unfortunately, we are in a situation where not all member states are ready to make the dedication. Germany especially, as the country most dependent on Russian energy, has not been ready to levy sanctions against the energy sector."

Raik said that decisions seem to be moving toward an energy embargo as Germany has made decisions in recent weeks that seemed unthinkable until recently in greenlighting Ukraine arms deliveries and laying down economic sanctions against Russia.

"But I am nevertheless disappointed, and I believe a lot of Germans are also disappointed, not to mention people in Ukraine, that Germany failed to decide to ban Russian energy today," Raik noted.

"It is quite an appalling realization that Germany seems to consider the price of an energy embargo to be higher than the price Ukrainians are paying in their lives every single day, not to mention the physical damage the war is doing. It is a shortsighted stance. The longer this war lasts, the more destruction it will cause, and Europe has promised to pay for the country's reconstruction. Therefore, I fear that dragging out sanctions decisions will end up costing more," she said.

The expert remarked it is difficult to say when the embargo might be decided. "I think it will be months still," she offered.

Raik said that the Russian economy is already feeling the effects of recent sanctions and an energy embargo would make those effects severe, adding that economic impact takes time.

The most important thing today is to give Ukraine arms. Sanctions are another element used to weaken Russia over time for it to be unable to continue the war, Raik suggested.

"We have done quite a lot in terms of weapons shipments and sanctions, but we need to do more. Our heading is the correct one, and Europe has fundamentally reevaluated its attitude toward Russia. It is now realized, also in Germany, that considerable military power is needed to ward off Russian aggression, as well as that we need to shake our economic dependence. These constitute completely new realizations, radical change for Germany," Raik said.

"But executing all of that will probably require time. When the time comes to ask the Germans whether they are ready to pay the economic price and suffer losses in the service of these goals, I'm afraid there will be a pause. They will likely not be ready by then," she added.

Raik said that public pressure seems to be mounting in Germany. "We will have to wait and see when it will reach political decisions. But it is baffling to see economic considerations hold so much sway over foreign policy in Germany even today."


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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