Germany’s Putin ties exposed: Why Scholz may never rule out gas pipeline sanctions

Russia 'uneasy' with NATO's presence in Baltics says EU chief

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The EU is in disarray as key German politicians refuse to vote for the Commission’s new €1.2billion (£1billion) package to aid Ukraine. Even as Russian President Vladimir Putin amassed 140,000 troops at the Russia-Ukraine border, Germany has been unwilling to impose harsh sanctions against Moscow. The US has demanded that part of the package of sanctions should involve scrapping Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

This is the project yet to come online that will see Russia send gas to Germany via the Baltic Sea, bypassing Poland and Ukraine on the route.

Last month, a ​senior official from the Social Democratic Party (SPD) in Germany defended the controversial pipeline, saying that it ​​should not be mixed up with political and human rights disputes with Russia over Ukraine.

Kevin Kühnert, the SPD new secretary-general warned that a potential attack by Russia, while unacceptable, should not be used domestically “to bury projects in this way that have always been a thorn in one’s side”.

This suggests that even if Russia were to invade Ukraine, Germany would be unwilling to impose sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

Germany’s SPD party has a complicated relationship with Moscow.

According to POLITICO, while the party like to present itself as a “de-escalating” diplomatic force, their decisions on Russia have clearly much to do with business interest.

A key link between the ruling German party and the Kremlin is that of former SPD Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, who has links to Mr Putin and the Nord Stream 2.

Mr Schröder is the chairman of Nord Stream, which is the Russian-owned, Swiss-based firm that owns pipelines bringing Russian gas to Europe, and is a long-time friend of Mr Putin.

Earlier this month, Mr Schröder was slammed for his comments against Ukraine, accusing the country of “sabre-rattling”.

He also criticised German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock for visiting Kiev before she went to Moscow last month, warning that the visit could be seen as “provocation” in Russia.

This comes as Chancellor Olaf Scholz is set to meet Mr Putin in Moscow today, with the aim of achieving a diplomatic resolution to the crisis. 

Like Miss Baerbock, Mr Scholz also stopped by Kieve right before visiting Moscow. 

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Mr Schröder has denied any accusations of using his influence to pressure Berlin on behalf of Moscow.

However, Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that Mr Schröder held a closed-door meeting last month with senior members of the SPD, including a state secretary in Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government.

This suggests that Mr Schröder was able to lobby German politicians to prevent the country from severing its gas ties with Russia.

Germany currently relies on Russia for around 40 percent of its gas imports and is likely hoping to want to avoid sabotaging this relationship..

The Express has reached out to SPD and Mr Schröder for a response. 

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