Former Chancellor Gerhard Schroder has defended Germany’s refusal to supply arms to Ukraine and rejected Ukrainian criticism of it in no uncertain terms.
“I very much hope that finally they will also really stop the saber rattling in Ukraine,” he said on the podcast “The Agenda”. “Because what I have to hear there, including the accusations against Germany because of its sensible refusal to supply weapons, is sometimes beyond the pale.”
Criticism of the remarks
At the same time, the former SPD leader accused Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) of provoking Russia because she visited Ukraine before her inaugural visit to Moscow. “I was surprised that one visits Russia and before that is in Kiev. All right, the Russians have probably put up with that,” the former chancellor said. “I hope that this model will not be repeated during the visit to China – wherever then the trip comes from.”
The Green Party’s federal manager, Michael Kellner, rejected Schroder’s remarks in no uncertain terms. “The remarks I heard from Gerhard Schroder were unworthy of a former chancellor,” he explained. “These remarks undermine the German government”s efforts to find a peaceful solution, and they reverse cause and effect.”
The parliamentary director of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group, Thorsten Frei, criticized: "In the current situation, accusing Ukraine of "saber rattling" is pure cynicism." Schroder irritates "with his provocations our neighbors and partners" and contributes to "undermine hard-earned trust," the CDU politician told the German Press Agency. He said it was high time Chancellor Olaf Scholz contradicted his party colleague.
Schwesig continues to promote Nord Stream 2
The remarks come in the middle of an international discussion about Germany"s reliability in the Ukraine crisis. Eastern NATO partners such as Poland and the Baltic states criticize Germany"s no to arms deliveries to Ukraine and call for a halt to the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. The displeasure is directed above all against the largest government party SPD, which has been struggling for years to find a unified course in Russia policy.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz only last week, after much hesitation, put Nord Stream 2 on the table as a possible sanction tool in the event of a Russian invasion of Ukraine. The party leadership followed his lead last weekend. But the SPD Minister President of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Manuela Schwesig, continues to promote a rapid commissioning of Nord Stream 2.
SPD retreat on the Russia course
Party leader Lars Klingbeil has called a closed-door meeting on the issue for Monday, as "Spiegel" reported. In addition to SPD foreign policy experts, state premiers and parliamentary group leader Rolf Mutzenich, defense minister Christine Lambrecht, development aid minister Svenja Schulze and head of the chancellor"s office Wolfgang Schmidt are also invited to attend.
Schroder has been friends with Russian President Vladimir Putin since his time as German Chancellor. He also has leadership positions in the Nord Stream and Nord Stream 2 pipeline projects. He is chairman of the shareholders’ committee of Nord Stream AG and president of the board of directors at Nord Stream 2 AG. Both gas pipelines under the Baltic Sea connect Russia and Germany. Schroder is also chairman of the supervisory board at Russian state energy company Rosneft.
Schroder signals understanding for Putin’s troop surge
In the interview, the former chancellor blamed NATO for the Russian troop surge on the Ukrainian border. It should also be understood as a reaction to maneuvers of the Western alliance in the Baltic States and Poland, he said. "Of course, this has implications for thinking and threat analysis in Russia itself."
On Baerbock’s trip to Kiev and Moscow, Schroder praised above all her clear no to arms deliveries to Ukraine. That was "respectable. Overall, he could not see "any major mistake" on the part of the Green politician, "with the exception of the fact that perhaps the small provocation of flying to Russia via Kiev could have been avoided," the former SPD chairman said. "But well, that’s just a matter of style."
Schroder does not want to be a mediator
Schroder was also asked in the podcast interview with his former government spokesman Bela Anda whether he would be willing to mediate in the Ukraine conflict, given his friendship with Putin. For that there is the US president, the French president and the German chancellor, Schroder replied. " There someone, who has quite personal connections, but can not really help. The people in charge have to do it themselves, otherwise it won’t work out."
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