Former Federal Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, who ruled Germany from 1998 to 2005, confirmed that he met again with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the end of July, and gave an interview with messages from Moscow on topics such as gas supply to the Europe and War in Ukraine.
These include a call for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline to be activated and a suggestion that Russia would be open to negotiating a ceasefire in Ukraine if the two sides involved in the conflict made concessions.
A personal friend of Putin’s, Schröder held senior management positions in Russian state-owned energy companies after leaving the government and fell out of favor in Germany for refusing to condemn the Russian president for the war and hesitating to cut his ties to Kremlin-linked companies.
His Social Democratic Party (SPD), the same as the current German Federal Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, opened a process of expulsion of Schröder. In May, the Bundestag (lower house of Parliament) also decided to cut some benefits he had as a former chancellor.
Schröder had already traveled to Moscow in March, shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Last week, the German press reported that Schröder was back in Russia, but the former chancellor’s official justification was that he was on vacation. On Wednesday, however, the former foreign minister confirmed that he had met with Putin, and the Kremlin also confirmed the meeting.
Pressure for Nord Stream 2
In an interview with the German magazine Stern and to broadcasters RTL/ntv, Schröder said that Berlin should rethink the blockade of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which runs parallel to Nord Stream 1 and has already been completed, but never came into operation as it had its certification suspended by Germany in February, on the eve. of the invasion of Ukraine.
“The simplest solution would be to put the Nord Stream 2 pipeline into operation. It is ready. When things get really tight, there is this pipeline, and with both Nord Stream pipelines, there would be no supply problem for the German industry and the German homes,” he said.
“If you don’t want to use Nord Stream 2, you have to face the consequences. And they will be huge in Germany too. And then people will start asking themselves in Germany: ‘Why are we out of gas from the Nord Stream 2 pipeline? ?'” said the former chancellor.
Nord Stream 1 currently only uses 20% of its capacity, after Russia reduced deliveries in July on a technical justification – the lack of a turbine undergoing maintenance. This version was rejected by Germany and the European Union, which pointed to political reasons for the decision.
In the interview, published this Wednesday (03/08), Schröder argued that the problem with Nord Stream 1 would be related to Siemens: “The reason why [a turbina] it is [em uma instalação da Siemens] and not Russia, I don’t understand.” He also said that of Nord Stream 1’s five turbines, four were out of service for various reasons.
This Wednesday, Scholz visited a Siemens facility in Mülheim an der Ruhr, Germany, where the aforementioned turbine is located, and said that it was ready to be sent to Russia, but that Moscow was not taking the necessary steps to receive it. there. “There is no reason why the handover should not happen,” said the current chancellor.
It was precisely under the Schröder government that Nord Stream 1 was planned. The then chancellor even signed a billion-dollar guarantee to facilitate the project, which in the long term increased Germany’s dependence on Russian gas.
War talks in Ukraine
Schröder also defended opening negotiations with Putin on the war in Ukraine, and indicated that the agreement that allowed the opening of a safe route in the Black Sea for the export of grain from Ukrainian ports – mediated by Turkey and the UN – could serve as the basis for a ceasefire, provided both warring sides make concessions. “The good news is that the Kremlin wants a negotiated deal,” he said.
Schröder even outlined possible conditions for this ceasefire, which would force Kiev to relinquish sovereignty over part of Ukrainian territory, including the Crimean peninsula, occupied by the Russians in 2014. “The idea that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will have conditions of militarily recovering Crimea is simply false,” said the former German chancellor.
As for the Donbass region, in eastern Ukraine, where fighting is currently concentrated, Schröder accused Kiev of violating the Minsk Accords and said that the best way to achieve peace in the region would be “a solution along the lines of the cantons model in Switzerland”. The small European country is divided into 26 semi-autonomous cantons or provinces.
In reaction to the interview, Ukraine’s presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak described Schröder as a “voice of Russian royalty” and said the grain export deal did not pave the way for negotiations. “If Moscow wants dialogue, the ball is in its court. First – a ceasefire and the withdrawal of troops, then – [diálogo] constructive,” he wrote on Twitter.
“Maybe I can still be useful”
The former chancellor also refused to directly condemn Putin for the war. “I consider this war to be a mistake on the part of the Russian government. I have said that before publicly. But I don’t have to constantly play the role of the outraged, others can do that,” he said.
When pressed by interviewers, who recalled that he was isolated and under great pressure in Germany due to his closeness to Putin, Schröder replied: “Do I have to jump over every obstacle placed in front of me? I’m not like that. I made decisions and I’m acting on them, and I also made it clear: maybe I can still be useful here again. So why should I apologize?”
In the interview, the former chancellor mentioned the isolation he faces in Germany, mentioning that a member of a golf club in Hannover he participates in complained of having to see him there from time to time. But he said he continued to receive “many letters” from Germany that said: “It’s good that there is still someone who has open channels of communication with Russia in the current conflict.”
Schröder has indicated several times that he could help the German government to find a diplomatic way out of the crisis with Russia, but Scholz has made it clear that he does not want his predecessor’s help.