Russian influence: Lobbyists serving Moscow


As of: 01/31/2022 4:31 p.m

Former Chancellor Schröder and his good connections to Russia are not an isolated case. In France and Austria, too, there are examples of a “Schröderization” of politics. There are also institutes that do Russian PR.

By Silvia Stöber, tagesschau.de

He accuses Ukraine of “saber rattling.” He justifies Russia’s massive deployment of troops. On the question “War in Europe?” In a podcast, former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder expresses views with which he fuels the controversy within the SPD about the right way to deal with Russia. He was opposed by his party colleague Michael Roth, who sees Ukraine’s legitimate interest in defending itself. This has nothing to do with “saber rattling”.

The podcast is called “The Agenda”, produced by Béla Anda’s PR agency, which once promoted Schröder’s “Agenda 2010”. In conversation with Anda, Schröder has been presenting his view of the world situation since May 2020. The description of the podcast contains information about Schröder’s political career. About his activities after that, it is said that he was again working as an independent lawyer in Hanover. He holds honorary posts and functions in business.

Neither there nor on his own website is there any concrete information about the latter: that he has been chairman of the supervisory board of the Russian company Rosneft since 2017 and that shortly after leaving his office he became chancellor for the Russian energy company Gazprom, he was on the board of Nord Stream AG, then also as CEO of Nord Stream 2 AG.

Private matters with consequences

Schröder likes to emphasize that these posts are his private affairs. But the geopolitical function of the Nord Stream pipelines and the gas storage facilities owned by Gazprom located on German territory is becoming increasingly clear in the current tense situation. Rosneft boss Igor Sechin had just campaigned for Schröder’s appointment as chairman of the supervisory board by saying that he would stimulate German-Russian relations.

Research by t-online gives an idea of ​​how Schröder could implement this apart from public announcements, for which the media platform had made inquiries to the state government in Schwerin under the Freedom of Information Act, among other things. According to this, Schröder met with the SPD politician and Prime Minister Manuela Schwesig in 2018 and 2019 for talks without protocols being drawn up about their taking place and content.

Nord Stream 1 and 2 make landfall in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania’s Lubmin. In 2021, the state government in Schwerin launched the controversial “Climate and Environmental Protection Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania Foundation”. Gazprom initially provided 20 million euros. According to the statutes, the purpose of the foundation can also be economic activity in addition to promoting environmental protection – specifically a participation in “the completion of Nord Stream 2”, this “also in the form of the establishment of one or more legally independent companies”. Experts suspect that the US sanctions against Nord Stream 2 should be circumvented in this way.

In August 2020, after meeting with Nord Stream 2 CEO Matthias Warnig, Schwesig said they agreed that the pipeline project “should be made a success”. Like Schröder, the former Stasi agent sits on the board of Rosneft.

“Revolving door” between politics and lobbying

The new federal government apparently wants to avoid the emergence of conflicts of interest. The Federal Foreign Office refused permission for former diplomat Dieter Walter Haller to become chairman of the supervisory board of a subsidiary of Nord Stream 2 called “Gas for Europe GmbH” based in Schwerin. It aims to achieve pipeline certification. As a reason, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs explained that “official interests” would be adversely affected by the start of this activity.

Under the previous governments, it happened that high-ranking politicians moved to companies shortly after leaving in order to use their knowledge and contacts as lobbyists. The switch between politics and business is called the “revolving door” in the US and has long been a problem in Washington.

However, lobbyists have to register there as “foreign agents” if they are active for other countries. In Germany, there has only been a lobby register since the beginning of this year. The new federal government wants to improve the law on this.

“Schroederization”

Other cases within Europe show how necessary transparency is. France’s former Prime Minister François Fillon joined the board of the Russian oil company Zarubezhneft in June 2021. At the end of the year, a seat on the board of directors of Russia’s largest petrochemical group, Sibur, was added.

Fillon has long been considered a friend of Putin’s and openly represented pro-Russian positions. In the 2017 presidential election campaign, however, it became known that he had accepted expensive gifts and that his wife had a bogus job, and that his career as a politician was over.

There are several cases in Austria. For example, former chancellor Wolfgang Bowl was given supervisory board mandates at Russian companies. Former Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl received a supervisory board post at Rosneft in June 2021. From her short tenure, the pictures of Putin as a guest at her wedding were the most memorable.

The word “Schroederization” became internationally accepted for this type of post allocation – for Schroeder as one of the first and most prominent Western European politicians who agreed to this closeness to the Russian leadership. Other states, such as Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, also know how to use strategic corruption for their own purposes.

influence think tanks

Another level of influence are think tanks. Here, too, people close to Putin are active in spreading Russian positions in Western Europe. One of them is Vladimir Yakunin. The former KGB agent and railway boss was busy in several countries, including the Czech Republic and France.

In 2016, Yakunin founded a research institute called “Dialogue of Civilizations” in Berlin and was able to attract a number of personalities, including the former Inspector General of the German Armed Forces, Harald Kujat. At the opening, the retired General spoke a word of welcome. In the past few days, Kujat has attracted attention by criticizing the dismissal of Navy chief Kay-Achim Schönbach, who spoke about Russia and Ukraine at an event in India.

“Escalation starts from Russia”

Meanwhile, SPD co-leader Lars Klingbeil is trying to end the debates about the Russia strategy in his party. “It’s absolutely clear to us: We’re experiencing an escalation that’s coming from Russia,” said Klingbeil ARD morning magazine when asked whether there were any differences between his party and the traffic light government.

Referring to Schröder’s statements on Ukraine, Klingbeil said: “Many can speak out, but we as the current SPD leadership will make decisions together with Chancellor Scholz.”


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