The journalist Gabor Steingart writes about the damage to the German economy from alleged gas sanctions against Russia and praises Sahra Wagenknecht. A reply.

The Federal Chancellor is right: “There are no sanctions on gas.” What there are are factual, albeit unexplained, gas sanctions by Vladimir Putin against the West, and they are costing Germans prosperity and security. They are part of the Kremlin ruler’s psychological warfare, which would be part of serious analysis to point out.

That is perhaps the first point that one can make against the left-wing politician Sahra Wagenknecht and the journalist and Pioneer founder Gabor Steingart. Steingart writes in his “Morning Briefing” about allegedly existing “gas sanctions” against Russia, which would be “a self-harm of the German economy” and praises Wagenknecht for their identical assumptions.

The second: The Western sanctions harm the West, that’s clear, but whether the West “shot itself in the foot” (Steingart) is at best short-term correct. But not in the long term. The Western sanctions – now around 1000 individual measures – are causing massive damage to the Russian economy, just not to all parts of the economy there.

Although Gazprom posted a record profit of more than 40 billion euros in the first six months, but – just one example – because the West technology is no longer exported to Russia, the new Lada will be delivered without airbags.

In addition, Russia is stuck in a kind of time trap: The longer the war of aggression against Ukraine lasts, the more expensive it becomes – the Russian victims are not only increasing in human lives, but also in terms of economic power. Due to a “sharp slump” in its energy exports last month of 5.9 billion dollars (in a single month!), the Russian budget surplus this year was “almost pulverized”, writes the “Financial Times” from London today.

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The financial setback hits Russia at a moment when it is experiencing its biggest military defeat since the failed attempt to conquer Kyiv: Ukraine is currently making major gains against the invaders. But that’s not all: the criticism of the aggressive warrior can now be heard from Russia itself for the first time – an absolute novelty in a dictatorship; the critics risk their existence.

Incidentally, the state-controlled company already recorded the record profits that Sahra Wagenknecht spoke of in the German Bundestag in 2021 – i.e. already in the year before the Russian invasion began and before the start of the really far-reaching Western sanctions, which have been in place step by step since February 24 were expanded.

The reason for the Gazprom profit: The recovery of the economy in Europe after the Corona kink. The fact that the gas price then went up drastically after the start of the war has to do with the shortage of supply – and this is not only due to the West sanctions.

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The Chancellor explained the mechanism to employers today: whoever has to get gas in Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, France or the USA pays market prices. And they are (for the time being) higher because the Russians have drastically reduced their gas supply by not supplying it. So it wasn’t, as Sahra Wagenknecht said in the Bundestag, a Western “economic war” that drove up gas prices, but an economic war that Putin started.

What Wagenknecht operates was already known from the AfD: a perpetrator-victim reversal. Both radical parties have identified the Americans as the mastermind behind everything that is happening. That is why Wagenknecht’s accusation in the Bundestag was that the federal government was pursuing a policy in the manner of the populist American ex-President Donald Trump: “America first”.

But apart from the fact that it is currently not the Americans, but the Norwegians who are Germany’s most important gas suppliers – what would have been the alternative to sanctions against Russia, combined with economic, arms and humanitarian aid to Ukraine? About the surrender of Ukraine? And thus Russia’s reward for an imperial war of conquest including blatant human rights violations such as torture and attacks on the civilian population?

Economically, the Ukraine war is a race against time. The Western sanctions hit Russia, but they only really hit with a delay – that’s the nature of economic sanctions. However, the Russian gas sanctions have an immediate effect. This time asymmetry gives the impression that the West sanctions are a shot in the foot.

But that’s not true, because the Russian economy is already groaning, as described, it’s in a deep recession, but the consequences will be felt primarily in the medium and long term. Russia has been cut off from Western technology transfer since the beginning of the war and is suffering from the exodus of its technical elite. According to estimates by the Eastern Europe experts at the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, Russia is unlikely to recover from this for many years – if at all.

And it is unclear whether Gazprom’s plan to replace Europe with China as the main importer of Russian gas will work out. To do this, the pipelines would first have to be built through Mongolia, which, see Nord Stream 2, is also not possible overnight.

Even if the economy in Europe and also in Germany slides into a recession and therefore no longer grows but shrinks – the western economy is far more crisis-proof, more resilient than Russia’s economy.

And that’s not all: by the end of next year, according to the Chancellor, Germany will be completely independent of Russian energy supplies. Because Germany has managed to fill up its gas storage facilities and establish a supply network via other pipelines and new liquid gas terminals on Germany’s coasts.

What is becoming apparent, however, is that it will probably take longer than the federal government had hoped for the gas price to fall back to a level that is reasonably tolerable. A European gas price brake, i.e. the attempt to form a buying cartel against the Russians, has failed for the time being. Hungary and the Czech Republic cannot afford to do without Russian gas – at least not yet.

Beyond the economy: Wagenknecht is controversial in the Left Party. How much is made clear by a remarkable personality. In reaction to the Wagenknecht, what is probably the most important and definitely the loudest social lobbyist in Germany, the head of the Paritätischer Gesamtverband Ulrich Schneider, left the Left Party yesterday. He said: “The fact that the left-wing faction let Sahra Wagenknecht on the podium last Thursday in the Bundestag and what she then – one should have known – launched was too much. I left the Left Party.”

Even more happened: After Wagenknecht’s speech, the left-wing environmental spokesman Ralph Lenkert resigned from his post. Left MP Martina Renner called “the phrase: US economic war against Russia: Kremlin propaganda”. Caren Ley from the same faction complained about a distortion of the facts and the left Kathrin Vogler judged: “Putin has imposed a gas embargo on Germany, not vice versa. As a social opposition, you have to be clear about that.”

Conclusion: Like the AfD, Wagenknecht uses a Russian narrative because it falls on fertile ground in East Germany. Picking out the Gazprom successes from the left-wing outsider’s arguments without pointing out Wagenknecht’s anti-American, anti-capitalist and tactical motivation for doing so can be viewed as journalistically questionable.