Ex-German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder under fire for meeting Putin | Germany

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has come under fire for a private meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin after traveling to Moscow on vacation to meet him.

Schröder told German media in a lengthy interview that he had nothing to apologize for for his friendship with Putin, whom he met last week during a visit to the Russian capital.

Schröder has come under fierce criticism for his business ties to Russian state gas company Gazprom. He was one of the driving forces behind the construction of two pipelines in the Baltic Sea to transport gas to Europe, one of which was shut down after the invasion of Ukraine. The other, Nord Stream 1, delivers only 20% of the expected gas level.

Schroeder faces an investigation by the Social Democrats, of which he has been a member since 1963, into his ties to the Kremlin and his refusal to distance himself from Putin, and could still be expelled from the party.

In a five-hour interview with Stern magazine and RTL broadcaster, he did not provide any direct insight into the Russian leader’s mentality. However, he said after his talks with Putin that he thought the conflict with Russia was “solvable”, but that more negotiations were needed – which Germany and France should lead – and a greater sensitivity of the West to Russia’s “real fear of to be hemmed in” by hostile countries, which “feed on historical events” and were “unfortunately valid too”.

Looking to the future, Schröder advised Ukraine an Austrian-style neutrality status and a Swiss cantonal settlement for what he called the “more complicated” Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. He said both sides should be willing to compromise.

But he apparently wouldn’t be drawn to talk about the atrocities committed by Russian troops since the beginning of the most recent phase in the conflict, including the Bucha massacre, the deaths of thousands of civilians across the country, the occupation of the eastern and southern regions, the forced deportation of thousands of Ukrainians and accusations that the Kremlin is trying to exterminate the population.

In regards to the argument over why only a fifth – or 30 million cubic meters per day – of the expected amount of gas flows through the Nord Stream pipeline, Schröder said the blame lay with the German company Siemens, which he accused of the failure to supply a recently serviced turbine to Russia.

But according to the German government and Siemens, Moscow is responsible for the refusal to take delivery of the turbine, which was recently shipped from Canada to Germany after a special dispensation was granted allowing the temporary suspension of sanctions against Russia.

“We would see 60m cubic metres, so double the amount currently flowing, if the turbine (No 2) were available. That’s up to Siemens as far as I understand,” he said. The same explanation for why the turbine remains stuck at Siemens Energy’s Mühlheim an der Ruhr plant has been given by Putin himself.

On Wednesday, the site was visited by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who hoped to take the opportunity to, as he put it, “call Russia’s bluff”, stressing that the turbine’s shutdown was due to Moscow.

Schröder earned scorn on social media and in government circles for his insistence in the interview that the simple solution to Germany’s energy needs – as it faces a winter of inadequate gas supply – would be to activate Nord Stream 2, whose construction was earlier. It was demolished by the German government in protest against the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February.

“,”caption”:”Sign up to First Edition, our free daily newsletter – every weekday morning at 7am BST”,”isTracking”:false,”isMainMedia”:false,”source”:”The Guardian”,”sourceDomain”:”theguardian.com”}”>

Sign up for First Edition, our free daily newsletter – every weekday morning at 7am BST

“The simplest solution would be to start up Nord Stream 2 operation,” said Schröder. “It’s completed. If it gets really tight in terms of gas, we’ll have this pipeline, and with both pipelines together there would be no supply problem for German industry or for German households.”

The German government has no plans to activate the pipeline.

When asked why he had refused to distance himself from Putin, Schröder replied: “I would ask how it would help anyone if I personally distanced myself from Vladimir Putin? … Maybe I can even be of use. So why should I apologize?”

Leave a Comment