(Bloomberg) — Germany’s controversial former chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, who has been cast adrift by his own party over his ties to Vladimir Putin and lucrative jobs with Russian state energy firms, said he met with the Russian president in Moscow last week and insisted that the Kremlin is open to talks to end the war in Ukraine.
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“The good news is that the Kremlin wants a negotiated solution,” Schroeder told German magazine Stern in an interview published Wednesday. Although Russia’s invasion of its neighbor is a “mistake,” the former Social Democratic Party leader said the conflict can be solved.
Schroeder, who ruled Europe’s largest economy from 1998 to 2005, has been widely condemned over his relationship with Putin. He defended him over alleged Russian atrocities in Ukraine, saying he didn’t think those orders would have come from the Russian leader.
Schroeder’s SPD party, to which the current chancellor, Olaf Scholz, also belongs, has told the former leader to quit and the process of forcing him out is ongoing.
Scholz and other senior members of the three-party ruling coalition in Berlin have distanced themselves from Schroeder, and welcomed a decision by lawmakers to strip him of his office in the lower house of parliament.
The 78-year-old Schroeder’s recipe for a negotiated settlement echoed many of Moscow’s demands in the war.
Ukraine should surrender its claim to Crimea — which Russia annexed in 2014 — as well as its NATO aspirations, Schroeder said. The eastern Donbas region should remain part of Ukraine, though the Russian minority there should be given special rights, he added.
Both sides should make concessions, Schroeder said, signaling that Turkey could play a mediating role.
Germany can avoid an energy crunch this winter by re-activating the now-defunct Nord Stream 2 pipeline, Schroeder said. He negotiated the initial deal for the pipeline, a direct gas link between Russia and Germany, as chancellor and has served as chairman of the shareholder committee of Nord Stream AG.
“If you don’t want to use Nord Stream 2, you have to face the consequences,” said Schroeder, who made an attempt at talks with Putin weeks into the war. He repeated that he wouldn’t quit the Russian leader, saying he could be “useful.”
(Updates with details on Schroeder’s party starting in fourth paragraph)
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