Russia connections: For Schwesig, the air is getting thin


As of: 04/22/2022 4:02 p.m

The Russia entanglements bring Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania’s Prime Minister Schwesig increasingly in need of explanation. She refuses to resign, but the opposition has many questions – now a committee of inquiry is coming.

An analysis by Stefan Ludmann, NDR

From the SPD hopeful with chancellor potential to the burden on the entire party: Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania’s Prime Minister Manuela Schwesig is experiencing a dramatic loss of reputation these days because of her long-term coziness with Russia – it’s not just about her controversial climate foundation. The head of government seems counted, but she refuses to resign.

Schwesig only explained on Wednesday in the text module rhetoric typical of her: “The citizens of our country voted for me with a high level of trust a good six months ago and confirmed me in office and of course I will continue to do justice to it.”

The refusal to draw conclusions only makes the opposition in the Schwerin state parliament louder. CDU, Greens and FDP, who self-confidently call themselves the “Jamaica opposition,” demand that Schwesig must put all her cards on the table and create full transparency. Even after the reports and announcements of the past few weeks, there are still many questions and fears in the SPD: “What’s next?”

What are the allegations about?

In essence, it is about the felt connection between the SPD-led state government and the Russian Nord Stream 2 AG. Schwesig’s SPD has enabled the subsidiary of the Kremlin group Gazprom to finish building the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. For this purpose, the state-owned “Foundation for Climate and Environmental Protection MV” was founded in January 2021 – after several meetings between Schwesig and top representatives of Nord Stream 2. Once, in September 2020 at a festive dinner in Heringsdorf on Usedom, sat next to Nord Stream 2 managing director Mathias Warnig – a Putin confidante and former Stasi officer – also the lobbyist for Russian gas, former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder (SPD), present.

Internal documents from the state government show that management became more and more nervous about Nord Stream 2 in spring 2020. The reason for this was the announcement of sanctions by the US government. The Americans threatened all those economically involved in the pipeline project with market-suppressing consequences. At that time, the USA warned the Europeans against a one-sided energy dependence on Russia. Schwesig and her SPD said, with deliberately anti-American undertones, that the US only wanted to sell its dirty fracking gas.

A foundation as a “sham”?

The solution was Schwesig’s climate foundation: Unlike normal foundations oriented towards the common good, the MV variant had a special twist: the foundation founded its own company – “an economic business operation” – which made sure that the tube in the Baltic Sea was finished. Among other things, the company bought a ship that did the remaining work. How much money flowed from Russian sources for this remains unclear to this day. The foundation refuses to provide information.

Nord Stream is in charge anyway, the company appointed the managing director, according to the articles of association it can have two representatives on the board of trustees. All that is known is that Nord Stream 2 has given a total of 20 million euros for the foundation’s secondary task, climate protection. The state contributed just one percent of the sum – 200,000 euros.

Schwesig adopted Nord Stream 2’s arguments: The gas from the pipeline is necessary as a “bridging technology” to create the energy transition. The Prime Minister had to defend her foundation against heavy criticism in January 2021, the month in which it was founded: The Greens, all well-known environmental organizations and energy experts spoke alternately of a “camouflage organization”, a “deceptive package” or a “fake foundation”. Using fossil energy as an argument for an ecological energy transition is nonsensical.

Schwesig’s attempt to “buy” the environmental organizations with seats on the board of trustees failed. BUND, NABU and WWF gave her the cold shoulder. The state audit office also expressed doubts, the German environmental aid and Transparency International announced legal steps. More than a year later, shortly before Easter, the “Spiegel” went one better and called the foundation “one of the greatest silly cheeks in German post-war history”.

Closer to Moscow than Washington

Schwesig’s SPD sat it all out. Up until the Russian attack on Ukraine, the Northeast leader was the loudest supporter of the pipeline project and her foundation. Moscow seemed closer to those responsible in Schwerin than its partners in Washington, not only geographically but also politically. Until the very end, Schwesig garnished her pro-pipeline statements with a dash of anti-Americanism. in the Deutschlandfunk Green leader Omid Nouripour recently accused her of doing so.

However, the arguments of the SPD collapsed with the Russian attack on Ukraine. Now Schwesig also says, “With today’s knowledge, the decision for Nord Stream 2 and the climate foundation was wrong”. Your critics, on the other hand, argue that the SPD is making things too easy for itself: Russia’s aggressive stance was clear at the latest with the annexation of Crimea, and despite the bombs in Syria, the murder of opposition figures and the disregard for human rights, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania has uncritically accepted Putin’s position rich leaning.

Committee of Inquiry from May

As examples, the Greens and FDP cite the “Russia Days” in Rostock, with sponsors who also supported the state SPD with several 1000 euros in party donations, the partnership with the St. Petersburg region, the installation of a dedicated Russia representative in Moscow or the public funding of a Russia club in Schwerin. In the eyes of the opposition, all of this stands for a “Kremlin network” in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.

CDU faction leader Franz-Robert Liskow calls Schwesig an “advertising icon” in Russia. Now the nerves in the SPD are obviously on edge. SPD parliamentary group leader Julian Barlen complained that the opposition was “really chafing”. In a letter to the members, he swore the comrades to solidarity and togetherness. The opposition is dishonest and not credible, they are trying to “exploit Putin’s war through party politics,” Barlen railed.

The Greens countered: The SPD wanted to discredit legitimate criticism and earn pity, according to state chairwoman Weike Bandlow. The opposition takes the duty of control very seriously and will continue to insist on 100% transparency in all Nord Stream 2 processes.

A committee of inquiry in the state parliament is to begin its work on this in May. This is not the only reason why the subject of the climate foundation will remain in Schwesig. The head of the foundation, her predecessor Erwin Sellering (SPD), is fighting against a dissolution. A legal opinion commissioned by him supports his position. Sellering said he wanted to continue. They don’t like to hear this impertinence in Schwesig’s state chancellery. People there are used to the fact that, above all, their own people submit to the requests of the head of government. Schwesig’s nimbus seems to be crumbling – no one from the federal party is helping her.

Demands for Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania’s Prime Minister Schwesig to resign

Silke Hasselmann, DLF, April 22, 2022 4:16 p.m

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