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University of California Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation

How Germany’s Coalition Change Contributed to Putin’s Strategic Miscalculation in Ukraine

February 25, 2022
Debra Leiter and Rebecca Best

Blog

In analysis for Political Violence At A Glance, an IGCC-supported blog dedicated to political violence and its alternatives, Debra Leiter and Rebecca Best, both Associate Professors of political science at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, analyze the role of Nord Stream 2 on the conflict in Ukraine.

Vladimir Putin almost certainly failed to anticipate that Germany would be willing to sacrifice the benefits of cheaper Russian gas to punish Russian aggression in Ukraine. But Tuesday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz indefinitely paused certification of the completed Nord Stream 2 pipeline to “reassess” the situation. While the move didn’t stop Putin from invading Ukraine—by that point Putin already had too much skin in the game to risk the loss of face from backing down—it has substantially raised the costs for Russia. Why did Germany do this, and why didn’t Putin see it coming?

Inflation is up around the world and so are gas prices—especially in Europe. If access to Russian fuel benefits Europe in normal times, it’s even more critical now. If you happen to be one of the world’s top exporters of petroleum and natural gas, as Russia is, a global squeeze is a great time to maximize your leverage. On top of this, Germany and other European countries have invested heavily in developing renewable energy sources. Putin can’t help but see this shift as a threat to Russia’s position in Europe. The more time passes, the less reliant Europe, and especially Germany, will be on Russia. The oil crisis and Europe’s shift toward renewables likely influenced Putin’s decision to escalate conflict with Ukraine as his leverage will likely never be higher.

Read the full blog post at Political Violence At A Glance