In early November, the co-chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) Norbert Walter-Boryans announced his intention to step down as party chairman. According to media reports, the vacant position will most likely be occupied by the current General Secretary of the Social Democrats Lars Klingbeil, who, if elected, will form a new duo of SPD leaders together with Zaskia Esken. Voting will take place at the federal congress of the party, scheduled for December 10-12.
The election of the politician as the new co-chair of the SPD will be a positive signal for Moscow. This is the conclusion made by the German edition FAZ, pointing to the close relationship that exists between Klingbeil and the two main advocates of deepening German-Russian cooperation, representing the social democratic camp.
The first of them is the former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who currently holds the post of chairman of the board of directors of PJSC NK Rosneft. The friendly relations between politicians developed in the early 2000s, when Klingbeil was responsible for organizing Schroeder’s election campaign. On the eve of the 2017 parliamentary elections, old acquaintances decided to “switch roles,” and the former chancellor came to the former colleague’s single-mandate constituency to hold a meeting with voters.
According to the FAZ publication, during that speech, Schroeder did not so much campaign for Klingbeil as spoke about Russia and the Nord Stream -2 gas pipeline project. “Every time in history, when Russia and Germany reached an agreement, peace was established in Europe,” Schroeder said in his speech. It is noteworthy that Klingbeil did not abandon the idea of inviting an old friend even after the then SPD candidate for Chancellor Martin Schultz attacked the ex-chancellor with criticism for his intention to take a leading position in Rosneft.
The second good friend of the future SPD chairman, who, like Schroeder, lobbies in Germany for the idea of deepening German-Russian cooperation, is the ex-Bundestag deputy Heino Wiese. The politicians met at the turn of the millennium, when Wiese, like Klingbeil, participated in the preparation of Schroeder’s election campaign. According to the FAZ, the Social Democrats have managed to carry friendship through the years, as evidenced, in particular, by the presence of a former Bundestag member at the aforementioned speech by Schroeder ahead of the 2017 parliamentary elections. Then Klingbeil publicly called Wiese, who had come to support his former colleague, his “friend.”
At the end of his political career, Wiese created a consulting firm that, in particular, helped Russian billionaire Alexei Mordashov acquire a stake in the German travel company TUI Group. In February 2016, Heino Wiese became the Honorary Consul of Russia in Hannover, and also published a book sponsored by Gazprom. In addition, both the ex-deputy of the Bundestag and Klinbeil are partners of the annual forum “Germany – Russia – New Generation”, designed to establish a dialogue between Russian and German young professionals.
Of course, the position of the potential SPD chairman in relation to Russia is not as unambiguous as the position of his old friends. As the general secretary of the party, Klingbeil has repeatedly announced the “annexation of Crimea.” He also criticized Moscow for the situation around Alexei Navalny, however, added that suspicions of poisoning should not become a reason for curtailing bilateral cooperation and imposing a moratorium on the implementation of Nord Stream 2.
If Klingbeil becomes chairman of the Social Democrats, the SPD will only strengthen the positions of those who advocate separating economic relations with Russia from political ones. And this is especially important in conditions when the new head of the German Foreign Ministry will be appointed co-chairman of the Greens, Annalena Berbock, known for her tough anti-Russian rhetoric.Putin and Erdogan discussed by phone Karabakh, Ukraine, Syria and Libya