Facing the Stress Test

Military personnel and scholars call for using the Ukraine war to weaken Russia – despite the threat of impoverishing broad segments of the population if natural gas supplies are cut off.

BERLIN/WASHINGTON (Own report) – German military personnel and scholars are speaking out in opposition to a negotiated settlement of the war in Ukraine and in favor of an increased arms build-up against Russia and China, as well as for preparations for a dramatic natural gas shortage. Referring to the heavy losses inflicted upon Russian troops during the war, they write in their appeal, “the current Russian weakness offers policy options to the West, whose disregard ... would be negligence.” The delivery of heavy weaponry to Ukraine and the increased militarization of NATO's eastern flank are aimed at intensifying military pressure on Russia. The appeal was published as preparations are being stepped up for a possible halt of Russian natural gas supplies to Europe. If this happens, German economic output could drop by one-eighth. jeopardizing over five million jobs, according to an analysis by the Bavarian Industry Association (vbw). While German Economics Minister Robert Habeck predicts a “stress test” for the German population, experts in the US are beginning to call for scaling down sanctions, because they are inflicting heavy damage on Europe.

One-Eighth of the Economic Output

In recent days, several studies have been presented on the prospects Germany would face, should Russia actually halt its gas deliveries to Europe. In late June, the Bavarian Industry Association (vbw) introduced a study estimating the possible consequences of an immediate halt in Russian exports.[1] Provided that the supply to legally protected customers, including particularly private households, would be prioritized, serious slumps are to be expected in major industries, which would lose up to 50 percent (steel, glass) or as much as 30 percent of their added value (food, chemicals, printing). According to the study, the consequences would be even felt in the service and agriculture sectors. The loss of about one-eighth of Germany's economic output should be expected – affecting 5.6 million jobs. In its analysis published yesterday, the Energy System of the Future (ESYS) points out that the shortage of natural gas cannot be overcome in the short-term even if any amount of liquefied gas could be bought, due to the lack of infrastructure – import terminals, pipelines – needed for its distribution.[2]

Facing the Stress Test

The German government and state institutions have already been preparing the population for two years of dramatic shortages. Economics Minister Robert Habeck announced intentions of amending the legally stipulated prioritization of private households, to favor supplying gas to the industry. In the future, the population must “do its share,” Habeck admonished on Tuesday.[3] Some communities are beginning to prepare “warming-up centers,” where the poor can come during the fall and winter. Klaus Müller, President of the Federal Network Agency confirmed that the deductions for the heating bills – which have already doubled would – “at least” – be triple beginning in 2023.[4] It must be assumed that the situation will again considerably deteriorate in the winter 2023/24 in comparison to the situation in the winter 2022/23. Even if the supply would actually improve beginning in the summer 2024, significantly higher energy prices must be expected, in the long run, the Energy System of the Future (ESYS) points out.[5] In reference to future natural gas shortages and the expected impoverishment of large segments of the population, Habeck noted, “this will subject Germany to a stress test.” The situation will stretch “social solidarity to its limits” – “and probably beyond.”[6]

“Winter is Coming”

Even US American proponents of a bitter no-holds-barred power struggle against Moscow are noting that, in principle, with the looming dramatic developments in Germany and the EU, that the orgy of western sanctions is not a threat to Russia, but instead is ruining Europe. It is now “clear that the economic war against Russia is not working nearly as well” as people thought it would, observed the influential US publicist, Fareed Zakaria, last week. Whereas Moscow has increased its revenue from oil and gas,[7] Europe is facing its “worst energy crisis in 50 years.”[8] “Winter is coming,” warns Zakaria, “homes in Europe,” might not have enough heat. “Time is not on our side.” Western governments should “recognize that economic sanctions simply will not work in a time frame that makes any sense.” They should increase as much of the supply of energy worldwide as they can. But at the same time, they should also dial back “those sanctions that clearly are causing more pain to the West than to Russia.” Zakaria specifically sees in this category those sanctions on the energy sources imports from Russia.

Russia’s Weakness as Opportunity

In the meantime, voices are also being raised in Germany calling for an end to the sanctions policy and striving for a negotiated settlement to the war in Ukraine. On the other hand, in an exhaustive appeal published in the Frankfurter Allgemeiner Zeitung yesterday, Thursday, a group of military personnel and scholars – particularly those at the Bundeswehr’s universities – have published a counter position. The signatories of the appeal explicitly reject the idea of a negotiated settlement, calling instead for a comprehensive economic and – by way of a continued arms buildup of Ukraine – military offensive against Russia. In consideration of the fact that Moscow was unable to achieve a rapid victory in Ukraine, the text advises that “the current Russian weakness offers policy options to the West, whose disregard ... would be negligence.”[9] For example, “the enormous attrition of the Russian professional army ... can only be overcome in a few years.” “Through the strict maintenance of western sanctions,” that process could be retarded. This pertains especially to all “exports of technologies and materials, important for Russia’s arms industries.” That must be prevented at all costs.

“Two very Difficult Years”

In consideration of the fact that Moscow, under these circumstances could possibly hall the delivery of natural gas to Europe, the appeal goes on to warn that “the western governments” must “prepare for the consequences of the expected shortage of gas and timely mitigate the economic and social repercussions.”[10] The signatories openly admit that “the next two years” will be “very difficult.” They advocate countering all future shortages with a policy of a new truce: “a political adjustment” is needed to the social dislocations “and a concerted action by all relevant social and political forces, to help solve the crisis.” Alongside the sanctions, the signatories call also for a dramatic arms buildup of the Bundeswehr and that it be granted “a leading role” in the planned militarization of NATO’s eastern flank.[11] In the future, it will be necessary for “Europe,” to take on “a bigger portion in deterring Russia’s military power,” because, “the USA will be engaged to a growing extent in the Indo-Pacific realm” – in the rapidly escalating global power struggle against China.


[1] Folgen einer Lieferunterbrechung von russischem Gas für die deutsche Industrie. Eine vbw Studie, erstellt von Prognos. München, Juni 2022.

[2] Wissenschaftsakademien zeigen Folgen eines Wegfalls russischer Energieimporte auf. Informationsdienst Wissenschaft (idw), Pressemitteilung vom 14. Juli 2022.

[3] Maria Fiedler, Julius Betschka, Jakob Schlandt, Thorsten Mumme: Habeck stellt Schutz von privaten Haushalten infrage – und bekommt Gegenwind. tagesspiegel.de 12.07.2022.

[4] „Gaskunden müssen sich auf eine Verdreifachung der Abschläge einstellen – mindestens”. rnd.de 13.07.2022.

[5] Wissenschaftsakademien zeigen Folgen eines Wegfalls russischer Energieimporte auf. Informationsdienst Wissenschaft (idw), Pressemitteilung vom 14. Juli 2022.

[6] Jörg Münchenberg: „Das wird Deutschland vor eine Zerreißprobe stellen”. deutschlandfunk.de 10.07.2022.

[7] See also Scheiternde Sanktionen.

[8] Fareed Zakaria: The West’s Ukraine strategy is in danger of failing. washingtonpost.com 07.07.2022.

[9], [10] Putins Politik nicht belohnen. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 14.07.2022. Zu den Unterzeichnern gehören Generalleutnant a.D. Heinrich Brauß sowie Wissenschaftler unter anderem vom Institut für Sicherheitspolitik an der Universität Kiel (Joachim Krause, Sebastian Bruns), von der Universität Potsdam (Sönke Neitzel) und von den Universitäten der Bundeswehr in München und Hamburg (Carlo Masala, Burkhard Meißner).

[11] See also Combat Brigades instead of Battlegroups and The Summits’ Results.