For the first time, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Monday (04/04) admitted his “mistake” in the assessment because he defended the need to implement the German-Russian Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, when he was Minister of Foreign Affairs, during the government of former Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Steinmeier is a longstanding advocate of a rapprochement between the West and Russia. However, the German president said that the Russian invasion of Ukraine meant that he and others had to honestly realize where they had gone wrong.
A sign indicating the construction area of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline – Photo: Hannibal Hanschke/Reuters
“Obviously my support for Nord Stream 2 was a mistake,” he said. “We were joining a bridge that Russia no longer believed in and other partners warned us about it.”
In the past, Steinmeier was a prominent member of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) wing, led by former chancellor Gerhard Schröder, who argued that close economic ties with Russia were a way to solidify it within a Western-oriented world order. .
The now-cancelled Nord Stream 2, which critics say has weakened Ukraine by excluding it from energy transit, was the cornerstone of that strategy.
“We have failed to build a common European homeland,” Steinmeier said. “I did not think that Vladimir Putin would accept the complete economic, political and moral destruction of his country because of his imperial madness,” he added. “In this I, like the others, was wrong.”
Steinmeier was head of the chancellery in the government of Social Democrat Gerhard Schroeder, from 1999 to 2005 – a position considered to be the Federal Chancellor’s right hand. He then served as foreign minister under the conservative Merkel from 2005 to 2009 and from 2013 to 2017, before becoming president.
The map shows the places where Nord Stream 2 passes – Photo: g1
When Steinmeier was at the helm of the chancellery, Schroeder and his political ally, Russian President Vladimir Putin, signed an agreement to build the first gas pipeline, Nord Stream 1, which became operational in 2011.
The deal was struck months before Merkel came to power in 2005. Subsequently, Schroeder became chairman of Nord Stream’s board of directors, a position he continues to hold despite current pressures to break with Putin.
In 2011, after the commissioning of the first gas pipeline, it was agreed to build Nord Stream 2 to increase direct transport of Russian gas to Germany via the Baltic Sea.
The second bill remained in effect despite Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region in 2014. At the time, the decision was made by Merkel and her then partners, Steinmeier’s Social Democratic Party.
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After weeks of hesitation and amid pressure from allies, the current Federal Chancellor, Social Democrat Olaf Schultz, suspended the license to implement Nord Stream 2 a day after Russia recognized the independence of two eastern European People’s Republics, Ukraine.
However, Germany flatly rejected the possibility of banning oil, gas and coal imported from Russia due to its high energy dependence on Moscow.
Ukraine criticizes this stance, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky himself has challenged Merkel to a “Bucha visit” to see the atrocities committed by Russian forces in the city. The Ukrainian leader, in a video message, said that the serious atrocities committed by the Russian army in the outskirts of Kyiv were the result of the policy pursued in recent years towards Russia.
The Polish government also called on Berlin to tighten sanctions on Russia and stop imports of Russian gas, oil and coal.
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