Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder was criticized for a private meeting he held with the Russian leader, Russian President Vladimir Putinhaving traveled on vacation to Moscow to meet him.
Schroeder told German media in a lengthy interview that he had nothing to apologize for because of his friendship with Putin, whom he met last week during a visit to the Russian capital.
Schroeder has been heavily criticized for his business ties to the Russian state-run 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 discontinued after the invasion of Ukraine. The other, Nord Stream 1, only offer 20% of the expected gas level.
Schroeder faces an investigation by the Social Democrats, of which he has been a member since 1963, over his ties to the Kremlin and his refusal to distance himself from Putin, and could be expelled from the party.
In a five-hour interview with Stern magazine and RTL, he did not provide direct insight into the mindset of the Russian leader. However, after his discussions with Putin, he said he believed the conflict with Russia was “solvable” but required more negotiations – which Germany And France must lead – and show greater sensitivity on the part of the West to Russia’s “real fears of being surrounded” by hostile states, which “fuel historical events” and were “unfortunately valid as well”.
Looking to the future, Schroeder recommended establishing neutrality along the lines of Austria Ukraineand a Swiss-style arrangement of cantons for what he referred to as the “more complex” Donbass region in eastern Ukraine. He said both sides need to show a willingness to make concessions.
But he will not seem tempted to talk about the atrocities committed by Russian forces since the beginning of the last phase of the conflict, including the Bucha massacre, the killing of thousands of civilians across the country, and the occupation. In the eastern and southern regions, the forced deportation of thousands of Ukrainians and allegations that the Kremlin is trying to eliminate the population.
In the controversy over why five – or 30 million cubic meters per day – of the amount of gas currently expected flows through the Nord Stream pipeline, Schroeder said the blame lay at the door of Germany’s Siemens, which he blamed for its failure. To deliver a recently maintained turbine to Russia.
But according to the German government and Siemens, Moscow is to blame for its refusal to deliver the turbine, which was recently transferred from Canada to Germany after being granted a special exemption allowing sanctions against Russia to be temporarily suspended.
“We will see 60 million cubic metres, so double the amount currently flowing, if the turbine (#2) is available. That is up to Siemens as far as I understand it. Putin himself gave the same explanation as to why the turbine remains stuck at the Siemens Mühlheim an der Ruhr plant. Energy.
The site was visited on Wednesday by German Chancellor Olaf Schultz, who was hoping to use the occasion, as he put it, “to call the Russian hoax,” stressing that the stagnation of the turbine is due to Moscow.
Schroeder drew scorn on social media and in government circles for insisting in the interview that the simple solution to Germany’s energy needs – as it faces a winter of insufficient gas supplies – would be to activate Nord Stream 2, the construction of which has already been completed. The German government canceled it in protest of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.
“The simplest solution is to start Nord Stream 2,” Schroeder said. “It is being completed. If it is really tight in terms of gas, we have that pipeline, and with both pipelines together there will be no problem with the supply to German industry or German households.”
The German government has no plans to activate the pipeline.
Asked why he refused to distance himself from Putin, Schroeder replied, “I would like to ask how it would help anyone if I personally distanced myself from Vladimir Putin? … Perhaps I could be of some help. Why would I apologize?”
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