“Mea culpa? Not my thing”: How Gerhard Schröder comes closer to an SPD party exclusion – politics

Leaving office was his style. The chancellor had asked for Frank Sinatra’s “My way” for the big tap. And so the tones of the classic sounded for Gerhard Schröder, the chorus of which says: “I did it my way.”

In his own way, Schröder continued as former chancellor. On the evening of December 9, 2005, 17 days after leaving office, his cell phone rang. On the other end is Vladimir Putin. He is urging him to head the shareholders’ committee of Nord Stream, the company controlled by Russia’s Gazprom group, which is set to build the first Baltic Sea gas pipeline between Russia and Germany, which Schröder had paved the way for.

“Are you afraid to work for us?” Putin asks him. Schroeder accepts the job. That’s what he told the New York Timesthese are the first longer statements since Putin’s attack on Ukraine and Schröder’s ominous mediation mission to Putin in Moscow.

The report, entitled “Putin’s man in Germany,” could still play a role in the ongoing party expulsion process, the SPD stressed on Sunday. Four SPD associations have applied for Schröder to be expelled from the party. Also in order not to endanger this procedure – a lesson from the difficult exclusion procedure against Thilo Sarrazin – the SPD leadership does not want to comment on the details of the report – there is no new situation, it is emphasized internally.

Schröder continues to refuse to meet the demands of the SPD leadership on two central points: a clear break with Putin and the resignation of his supervisory board posts at Russian energy companies.

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Bucha? No order from Putin

Almost 17 years after Putin’s call, Schröder’s manner – one can also recall the unusual golden portrait in the chancellery – has largely squandered his reputation, at least in Germany. And describes the “New York Times” his view of things. In the past few weeks, he has given the Berlin office manager of the US newspaper two interviews that offer interesting insights. “I think this war was a mistake and I’ve always said that,” says Schröder, but continues to avoid direct criticism of his close friend Putin, whom he once classified as a “flawless democrat” when asked. A peace solution must now be reached as quickly as possible. “I have always represented German interests. I do what I can. At least one side trusts me,” says Schröder – and probably means the Russian side.

The report says that Schröder drank copious amounts of white wine during the talks. Regarding the massacre in the Kiev suburb of Bucha, the 78-year-old says: “It needs to be investigated.” However, he does not believe that the orders came from Putin, but from lower levels.

But: Putin explicitly honored the soldiers after the atrocities. The Kremlin chief paid tribute to the 64th Motorized Rifle Brigade, which was deployed in Bucha, for special merits, heroism and bravery, as the Kremlin announced. A total of more than 400 bodies were found in Bucha, some with their hands tied behind their backs.

For the SPD leader, Schröder is on the wrong side of history

Inside the SPD there is talk of a “shame”, for SPD leader Klingbeil, who used to work in his constituency office, Schröder is now definitely on the wrong side of history. The CDU demands that there be sanctions against Schröder.

Klingbeil emphasizes in the ARD report from Berlin: “The party order proceedings are running against Gerhard Schröder. There are now a total of four structures that have this checked.” For him as party chairman, it is very important that he and Saskia Esken clearly signal, “that what Gerhard Schröder represents as a political opinion has nothing, absolutely nothing to do with the position of the SPD. We are unequivocally opposed to Putin and this war and honestly there is only one side to take at this point in this history right now.”

Schroeder against it counterattacked his critics in an interview with the “New York Times”. “They’ve all been there for the past 30 years. And suddenly they all know better,” he says, referring to the Union and the SPD and the interdependencies in energy policy. He advocates maintaining relations with Moscow despite the war of aggression against Ukraine. “You cannot isolate a country like Russia in the long term, either politically or economically. German industry needs raw materials that Russia has.”

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At Putin’s six-meter table

Regarding the mediation mission initiated by a Ukrainian politician in March, during which his wife posed as a Madonna praying for peace in an Instagram photo on Red Square, Schröder says that he too sat at the six-meter-long table with Putin. “What I can tell you is that Putin is interested in ending the war. But that’s not so easy. There are a few points that need to be clarified,” says Schröder – currently incumbent politicians are likely to find the attitude a bit naïve. Schröder also said before the war that Putin would certainly not attack.

The Ukrainian parliamentarian Rustem Umerow informed him about the Ukrainian positions at a meeting in Istanbul before the trip to Moscow – the contact between Schröder and himself was mediated through the Swiss publishing house Ringier. After the conversation with Putin, there was another meeting with Umerov, after which contact was broken off. But he was ready to speak to both sides again. .

Schröder ignored a letter from 10 chairmen

The case is becoming increasingly uncomfortable for the SPD chairmen Saskia Esken and Lars Klingbeil. Schröder let a kind of ultimatum, which was also signed by eight previous chairmen, pass, Sigmar Gabriel did not sign it. He, who, in the spirit of Schröder, despite the annexation of Crimea in the grand coalition with Angela Merkel as Economics Minister, successfully insisted on the construction of Nord Stream 2, recently paid a demonstrative visit to Schröder in Hanover. The SPD leadership had demanded an answer “promptly” to the letter from the chairperson at the end of February, in which Schröder was asked to resign from his post at the Russian state-owned company – but this has not yet been given two months later. He voluntarily renounced the honorary citizenship of Hanover.

For the SPD leadership and Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD), the new statements are unfortunate in any case, since there is already a debate about the SPD’s mistakes in Russia policy – and the braking, for example, in the delivery of heavy weapons with too much Putin – Consideration is connected – which Scholz rejects as defamation.

When Schröder wants to give up his posts in Russia

Despite Putin’s attack on Ukraine and the SPD’s demands, Schröder is still chairman of the supervisory board at the Russian state energy company Rosneft and chairman of the shareholders’ committee of the pipeline company Nord Stream. In June he was supposed to join the Gazprom supervisory board. The red line for him when he wants to give up the jobs? When Russian President Vladimir Putin turns off the gas for Germany and the European Union. “Then I would resign,” says Schröder.

Some of his statements seem defiant – and he makes one thing very clear. Unlike Frank-Walter Steinmeier, his former head of the chancellery and later foreign minister and federal president, he is not prepared to admit that he made mistakes. “I’m not doing a mea culpa now. “It’s not my thing.”

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