Ex-German chancellor Schröder’s continued ties to Russian energy industry spark outcry
New York Times / Deutschlandfunk / Der Spiegel
Former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder from the governing Social Democrats (SPD) has caused outrage in Germany and within his own party with comments about his loyalty to Russian president Vladimir Putin and his role as a lobbyist for Russian energy companies. In an interview titled “Putin’s man in Germany” with the New York Times, Schröder said he would uphold relations with the Russian leadership despite the war on Ukraine and has no intention to step down from his role as chairman of state-owned Russian energy company Rosneft and other mandates as long as supply contracts with Germany are being fulfilled. “He should leave the party,” SPD co-leader Saskia Esken told public broadcaster Deutschlandfunk, arguing that her party colleague for years has “acted solely as a businessman” and “should no longer be treated as an elder statesman and former chancellor.”
The SPD had urged Schröder in vain to lay down his mandates at Russian energy companies to save his reputation, Esken said, adding that an ongoing internal party review of Schröder’s SPD membership that could lead to his expulsion would face difficult legal hurdles. In an article by news magazine Der Spiegel, Tilman Kuban from the opposition Christian Democrats’ (CDU) said the former chancellor’s “Russian connection” was “a disgrace for Germany” and the SPD should lose no time to kick the former chancellor out of the party. Referring to a recent trip by Schröder to Moscow in what appeared to be an attempt to convince president Putin to end his invasion of Ukraine, Green Party politician Volker Beck said “a mediator who’s on the payroll of one side” could not be considered an earnest negotiator.
Schröder, who served as chancellor of an SPD-Green government coalition from 1998 to 2005, assumed various roles in the Russian gas and oil sector soon after his term ended and is considered a personal friend of Vladimir Putin. Amongst other things, he helped implementing the gas pipeline Nord Stream 1 and lobbied for the now suspended supplement Nord Stream 2 by state-owned Russian company Gazprom.