Boris Johnson moved on to paper over differences with Germany over support for Ukraine, hailing Berlin’s ‘principled determination’ to end its reliance on Russian energy ahead of a London meeting with the Chancellor German Olaf Scholz.
It is the first meeting between the two men since the Social Democrat Scholz was elected to head a three-party coalition government, and follows a week in which Germany resisted calls Britain asking major economies to set a timetable for ending dependence on Russian energy. .
Before the meeting with Scholz in Downing Street, the British Prime Minister said: “I welcome his principled determination to end dependence on Russian energy. How we respond to the Russian invasion will define the international order for years to come. We cannot let Putin’s crimes go unpunished.
Scholz has been criticized domestically and by Ukrainian politicians for not acting quickly enough to wean Germany from its decades-old reliance on cheap Russian energy and for being slow to support the transfer of heavy weapons that Ukraine needs.
He has also been warned by German industrialists that an immediate gas embargo would lead to mass unemployment, a position widely shared by the Greens party, its coalition partners.
Robert Habeck, Germany’s economics and energy minister, has announced plans to stop importing oil and coal from Russia this year, and gas by mid-2024.
Johnson is also expected to discuss delivering “new and heavier” weapons to Ukraine, acknowledging that the conflict has entered a “new and different phase”.
Ukraine’s Ambassador to Germany Andriy Melnyk told Deutschlandfunk radio on Thursday that kyiv was “waiting” for Berlin to deliver Marder and Leopard tanks, as well as the Gepard anti-aircraft system.
“The lists are there, the German government knows about them, but unfortunately it remains silent until today,” Melnyk said.
Norbert Röttgen, a member of the CDU opposition and a longtime supporter of greater German military involvement in Ukraine, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Germany has been too slow, too late and did little to exert maximum pressure on Vladimir Putin.”
He said polls in Germany showed there was growing support and a majority for imposing an immediate energy embargo on Russia. He admitted this would mean significant economic disadvantages, but insisted there would be no economic disaster. He said that German industry must realize that this was a war for freedom.
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss had urged the G7, including Germany, to set a timetable for ending its dependence on Russian energy, but the G7 statement released on Thursday contained only a aspiration to reduce dependency.
In nearly two days of meetings, the EU has so far this week only agreed to end Russian coal imports in August, but consensus on introducing a phased embargo on the oil or gas has not yet been reached. Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign affairs chief, said it was likely to be introduced “sooner or later”. The issue is expected to be discussed again at an EU foreign affairs meeting on Monday.
In 2021, fossil fuel revenues accounted for 35% of Russia’s budget revenues. Russia exported more than 49% of its oil and 74% of its gas to Europe.
Russia is heading for the deepest recession since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Britain predicted on Friday, estimating that more than 275 billion pounds ($358.52 billion) of Russian money had been frozen by international sanctions in recent weeks.