German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Tuesday that the country was in the midst of a “hybrid war” as Russia’s conflict in Ukraine exacerbates Europe’s energy crisis.
Speaking at a NATO summit in Madrid, Baerbock told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble that Germany was putting in place contingency plans in case its gas supplies — traditionally sourced from Russia via Nord Stream 1 — are cut off by Moscow.
That could also see the country face difficult decisions as to which institutions may have to suffer power cuts, she said.
“We are faced now in Germany with the question now that if there’s no gas coming through Nord Stream 1 … we have to decide which institution may be cut off the grid,” Baerbock said.
Europe has slipped into a worsening energy crisis as natural gas, oil and fossil fuel imports — for which the bloc has historically heavily relied on Russia — have become a political pawn in the standoff between the European Union and Moscow.
Germany is particularly dependent on Russian gas supplies via its Nord Stream 1 pipeline, importing 59.2 billion cubic meters in 2021. It had planned to double those supplies with a second gas pipeline, Nord Stream 2, but Germany suspended those plans shortly before Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.
NATO leaders are gathering Madrid to outline their vision for the West’s security agenda.
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The energy crisis is just one of multiple challenges facing Western leaders as the war in Ukraine rages on, Baerbock said.
President Vladimir Putin is hoping the West will be distracted from concurrent issues such as the escalating food crisis, a persistent information war and the climate crisis, she said.
“This is the big challenge and this is also one of the strategies Putin is following,” Baerbock said. “We are forgetting about other crises like the food war he’s also launching, like the hybrid war on fake news, but also that we are forgetting about the climate crisis.”
NATO leaders are gathering in the Spanish capital this week to outline their vision for the West’s security agenda.
The so-called Strategic Concept, which is updated roughly every decade, is recognized as NATO’s most important document. It will reaffirm the values of the 30-member alliance, provide a collective assessment of security challenges and act as a guide to the group’s political and military development.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said the updated Strategic Concept will likely refer to Russia as the “most significant and direct threat” to security in the wake of Putin’s onslaught in Ukraine, while the challenges posed by China are also set to be addressed for the first time.
On Monday, NATO announced plans to increase the number of its high-readiness forces to well over 300,000 as part of the alliance’s “the biggest overhaul of collective defense and deterrence since the Cold War.”
The Strategic Concept will also outline NATO’s emissions reduction targets, with the alliance pledging on Tuesday to reduce emissions by at least 45% by 2030 and reach net-zero emissions by 2050.
— CNBC’s Sam Meredith & Holly Ellyatt contributed to this report.