Apr 20, 2022 - World

Germany will end Russian oil imports by end of year, foreign minister says

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock attends a press conference
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock. Photo: Gints Ivuskans/AFP via Getty Images

Germany will stop importing oil from Russia by the end of this year, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said after a meeting with her Baltic counterparts Wednesday, Reuters reported.

Why it matters: Germany, along with the rest of the European Union, has faced mounting pressure to reduce its dependence on Russian oil and gas amid Russia's war in Ukraine.

What they're saying: "I therefore say here clearly and unequivocally yes, Germany is also completely phasing out Russian energy imports," Baerbock said, per Reuters.

  • "We will halve oil by the summer and will be at 0 by the end of the year, and then gas will follow, in a joint European roadmap, because our joint exit, the complete exit of the European Union, is our common strength," she added.

State of play: As long as Russia can sell Europe energy, it maintains a cash reserve to prop up its currency and fund a war.

  • Experts say cutting off coal and oil is relatively doable, as these can be imported from elsewhere. Cutting off natural gas is the greater challenge since it requires infrastructure — pipeline, transport and storage — that can't easily be replicated.
  • Germany relies on Russia for roughly two-thirds of its natural gas and a third of its oil.
  • The EU announced earlier this month that it would ban imports of Russian coal.

The big picture: Baerbock's remarks come as EU leaders have been discussing plans for a phased ban of Russian oil, the New York Times reported.

  • Russia is the bloc's largest oil supplier, so the phased embargo is intended to give European countries time to find other suppliers.
  • However, a ban on Russian gas remains off the table due to how crucial it is for important members of the bloc, notably Germany.

Our thought bubble, from Axios' Ben Geman: The move is part of a ratcheting up of efforts to move away from Kremlin-backed energy suppliers, but also recognizes that a very rapid ban would cause unacceptable economic havoc.

  • A big thing to watch is whether the EU can agree to a wider phaseout of Russian oil imports. But even the move by Germany, Europe's largest economy, is significant.
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