Returning from a “vacation” in Moscow, the former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder made a statement on the need to launch Nord Stream 2 against the backdrop of Germany’s natural gas shortage. The EU chose Schröder as its unofficial negotiator because of both his trusting relationship with Putin and his strong integration with Germany's ruling party, explains Sergey Fursa of Dragon Capital, an expert on natural gas and investment, in conversation with The Insider. Schröder is broadcasting Putin's message to Europe, relaying his conditions for ending the war.
“The simplest solution [in the current energy crisis faced by Germany] would be to start up the operation of Nord Stream 2,” said the former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder in an interview for Stern upon his return from Russia. According to him, refusal to launch the pipeline would have the gravest implications for Europe.
This statement of Schröder’s sums up one of Vladimir Putin's conditions for ending the war. The politicians discussed this item in Moscow in the course of Schröder's unofficial visit, remarks Sergey Fursa, Deputy CEO at Dragon Capital.
“It's on Putin's wishlist, and it concerns not only Ukraine but also the conditions for resuming the sales of natural gas. He has already done it twice: he made demands, Europe met him halfway, he saw their weakness and raised prices or cut gas supplies. The first time was when he demanded contracts in rubles, and the second was when he asked for the turbine. Both ended in the same way, and he is upping the stakes once again,” the expert says. “It's crucial for Putin to end the war as soon as possible: on the one hand, Russia’s offensive potential is dwindling, and on the other hand, the impact of the sanctions is becoming more and more tangible. At the same time, he is setting the terms on which he is ready to sign a peace treaty.”
At the moment, Putin is looking to maintain his hold over all of Ukraine by going back to the format of the Minsk Agreements, which stipulated conditional federalization.
“Schröder interprets this as a scenario similar to Swiss cantons. That is, Putin is willing to release the “LPR”, “DPR”, Kherson Region, and Zaporizhzhia back to Ukraine on the condition that they get a certain degree of autonomy and a say in the national policy-making. Putin seeks to expand the occupied territory, to create some sort of a ‘Kherson people’s republic’ and integrate it into Ukraine to get the opportunity to control Kyiv’s and Ukraine’s policy,” Fursa adds.
Nevertheless, as the expert underlines, Ukraine finds Putin's conditions unacceptable. “Most likely, Ukraine, the UK, and the US will do all they can to prevent this from happening, but whether Europe will find the prospect of such a truce appealing remains unclear.”
The former German chancellor arrived in Moscow late in July and booked accommodation close to the Rosneft office. He told journalists he was on vacation. In response to the remark about staying so close to Rosneft, Schröder feigned surprise: “Is that so? Oh yes, that's right, you're right.” His wife, however, contradicted him, saying he went to Moscow for energy policy talks, not for some leisure time.
«He's not on vacation, he's having talks about energy policy in Moscow,” said Soyeon Schröder-Kim.
Subsequently, Schröder admitted he had sat down with Putin. In an interview for Stern, a German weekly publication, and the RTL/n-tv television channels, published on August 3, he announced that Putin seeks to work out a solution for his conflict with Ukraine and the West through negotiations.