Even though Russia is the largest supplier of natural gas to Germany, consumers here have no reason to worry that their supplies will suffer as a consequence of the Russian-Ukrainian dispute.
German stoves should stay warm this winter
Even though gas systems across Europe reported sharp drops in their gas flows after Russian state-controlled natural gas monopoly Gazprom cut gas supplies to Ukraine on Jan. 1, German consumers had no reason to fear that their apartments would not be heated or that their stoves would remain cold this winter.
Germany relies heavily on Russian gas supplies, but it gets it via two supply routes, one going through Ukraine, the other, through Belarus and Poland. Furthermore, to avoid possible shortages, Germany could in case of an emergency increase gas imports from other countries such as Norway and the Netherlands.
Germany also maintains sufficient amounts of gas in storage.
"The gas reserves are almost full and could supply Germany for almost 75 days with gas," said Sabine Maas of the German Ministry of Economy.
Germany is Gazprom's largest customer
On Monday, a day after Gazprom cut the flow of gas to Ukraine, Germany's largest gas company EON reported a drop in pressure. On Tuesday, the company said it had registered a reduction of 30 percent pressure in gas coming in from Ukraine, which reflected a 10 percent drop in the daily import. Levels are expected to return to normal by Tuesday evening.
German energy suppliers have assured the 17 million German households that use gas for heating that they will not be affected, but that industrial usage may have to be reduced, should the dispute not get resolved.
Germany, Gazprom's biggest customer, imported almost 36 billion cubic meters of natural gas from Russia in 2004, or 35 percent of German gas consumption. That is why Chancellor Angela Merkel is so keen on seeing the dispute between Russia and Ukraine resolved amicably.
"The German government expects from Russia and Ukraine that the bilateral negotiations between the two countries about gas deliveries to Ukraine should not lead to the curtailing of gas provisions in Europe," said government spokesperson Thomas Steg.
The German government is in talks with both the Russian and the Ukrainian governments, but it does not foresee "playing the role of negotiator" or taking sides in the dispute. It is much more interested in synchronizing its line of action with other EU members.
The German press was, nonetheless, critical of Russia's "new cold war," which uses its massive supplies of natural gas as the main weapon.
Private customers in Germany should see no interruption of gas flow
The center-left Suddeutsche Zeitung commented that "long before petrol and gas stocks are used up, shortages are already translated into higher prices and that's an instrument of political and economic power."
"Today Ukraine is the victim, but no one can say that it will not also affect western Europe. While the importance of Russian gas to the European Union may wane over time that does not change the Kremlin's potential power," the paper said.
The conservative daily Die Welt urged Germany to develop other sources of energy in order to become less dependent on Moscow.
It cited "bio-gas" and other renewable energy sources, but also recommended that the nuclear option be reconsidered, a suggestion German Economics Minister Michael Glos has also made.
"That's the only way to reduce dependence on the Russian Gazprom monopoly, which fixes the so-called market prices almost at will," the paper argued.