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    A strong link between Moscow and Germany. Russian spirit seizes the day in Schwerin

    The opening of an honorary consulate of the Russian Federation is planned in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. According to the Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR), the Red-Red coalition of the SPD and the Left has already put forward a candidate for the post of Honorary Consul. Roland Methling, former mayor of Rostock, was a non-party and member of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany until 1989. Methling has been associated for years with a lobby that seeks to establish an exemplary relationship between Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Russia. Is it outrageous to set up an honorary consulate of Russia in the face of the war in the East, isn’t it? It probably is. Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, however, escapes this kind of dilemma. For years, this Land, the first country in which politicians of the former system came to power after German reunification, has maintained a unique relationship with Moscow, which today is defined mainly by the success or failure of the Nord Stream 2 project.

    Roland Methling does not comment on the media reports and refuses to accept the NDR’s request, but revealed that “the talks are underway,” and he believes that “a lot must be done to calm German-Russian relations.” At the same time, the NDR received a reply from the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Berlin confirming plans to open a consulate in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. 


    Under other circumstances, this information wouldn’t impress anyone anymore, but in the current situation, it’s strong. Since it comes at a time when Germany is being criticized by most NATO and European partners anyway, the state government of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern is steadfastly insisting on the commissioning of the Nord Stream 2 Pipeline, and the controversial Climate Protection Foundation (Klima- und Umweltschutz Stiftung), which was established by the state government in 2021. It receives massive financial support from Russia. 


    The representatives of the state government refused to state their position on the issue, but the journalist managed to talk to Franz-Robert Liskow, head of the CDU-Landtagsklub. “The decision as to who the Russian Federation appoints as Honorary Consul is generally a matter for Russia and Mr Methling, but the timing of the announcement of this decision is more than unfortunate and therefore wishes a better timing,” he said. At the same time, Liskow admitted that the CDU supported the introduction of Nord Stream 2 because it considered the gas pipeline to be necessary for Germany, but “some things need to be reconsidered” in the face of Russian aggression.


    Scammed as a Christian democrat


    Liskow, who was asked by a journalist about the Foundation for Climate and Environmental Protection, said: “We helped establish this foundation, but we didn’t know that it would actively participate in the founding of Nord Stream 2 and buy a ship that would help build the pipeline.” 


    At Breuner’s suggestion that the CDU state chairman Werner Kühn was the deputy chairman of the foundation’s board and thus the CDU members had every opportunity to find out about the foundation’s efforts and plans, Liskow defended himself with formal questions and the fact that the state government was his most important interlocutor. The journalist pointed out that the construction of Nord Stream 2 had already been set as an objective in the foundation’s statutes. Liskow replied that the CDU was aware of the aim of the foundation, but no one had told them what it would look like in practice, and then added that it would be harmful from an economic point of view not to commission the pipeline anyway, but if Russia were to attack Ukraine, it would be necessary to think about the future course of the project. Asked whether the CDU would request Werner Kühn to leave the foundation’s board in the event of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, the politician assured that “discussions will be held, since Kühn sits on the foundation’s board at the CDU’s request.”


    This is how sanctions are evaded


    The Climate Protection and Environmental Foundation was founded on 6 January 2021 with the majority support of the SPD, the CDU and the Left (Form 7/5696). They agreed to a one-off payment from the state budget to the foundation: EUR 200,000. As far as it can be seen from the decision signed by Prime Minister Manuela Schwesig (SPD) to promote climate protection and the wider environment of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Nord Stream 2 came up only at the end of a long list of noble climate protection measures:


    “It is decided to establish an economic activity in the Foundation to advance work on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. The foundation should be so open to everyone that the purpose of the foundation can be supported by donations. The Landtag reaffirms its decision of 27 August 2020 from Form No. 7/5302 and calls on the state government to continue to commit itself clearly and unequivocally to the completion of the Nord Stream 2 project, which is indispensable for the energy security of Europe and Germany, to strictly reject extraterritorial efforts for the project and to clearly and decisively all state authorities and national companies in all measures, to support them, to assist in the implementation of the project.” It also states that the Foundation is being subsidized by the Nord Stream 2 Consortium to bring about the completion of the pipeline and, once completed, to help ensure a secure gas supply so that “electricity from nuclear power plants and coal-fired electricity can be replaced by modern and flexible gas-fired power plants.”


    The EUR 20 million that Gazprom’s subsidiary Nord Stream 2 AG has committed to pay to the Foundation and a further EUR 40 million that were committed by the same Russian company after the pipeline was put into operation are not mentioned in the document.


    With regard to the above-mentioned Form 7/5305, it is a motion submitted by the CDU, SPD and Left Deputies’ Clubs in August 2020, calling for “not to give in to the pressure of the United States on the construction of Nord Stream 2.” The MPs condemned the US threats of sanctions against companies and individuals involved in the construction of the pipeline and called on the German government to use all diplomatic means to avoid sanctions. 


    As we can see, this appeal, almost six months later, led to the establishment of a foundation under the authority of the country’s government and was financially dependent on Russia. Former Prime Minister of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Erwin Sellering (SPD), handed over power to his party colleague Manuela Schwesig for health reasons in 2017. In September 2018, however, Sellering returned and founded the German-Russian Partnership, which aimed to promote “tolerance, mutual understanding among peoples, fostering contacts.” In 2021, after the foundation of the Climate and Environmental Protection Foundation, the media disseminated pictures of the old organisation’s mailbox with the additional address of the new foundation. Sellering claimed that the bodies would work independently, but it was clear that they shared the offices in Schwerin. Some of the members of the German-Russian Partnership are people associated with the Ostinstitut Wismar, which is lobbying for German-Russian friendship, whose market and legal analyses are supported by lobbyists working to further deepen relations between the two countries. One of the members of the Institute and the German-Russian Partnership is Falk Tischendorf, a lawyer and official representative of the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in Moscow, who was appointed to this position by then Prime Minister Erwin Sellering in July 2016.


    No gas, just… seagrass rolls


    When Manuela Schwesig convened a special session of the state parliament in January 2021 to establish the Climate Protection and Environmental Foundation, she said that climate protection and nature required new instruments. The fact that the Foundation had in its statutes the purpose of completing the NS2 was not the subject of debate, but it was known that such a Foundation, as an entity established by the state government and subordinate to the state authorities, would be exempt from US sanctions against companies involved in the construction of the pipeline. That summer, the foundation was able to afford to buy the Cypriot-flagged Blue Ship, which was needed to complete the pipeline, and Robert Liskow told an NDR journalist that “the CDU was unaware of the methods with which the foundation intends to support Nord Stream 2.” Earlier, on 27 January this year, another CDU MP Daniel Peters asked Environment Minister Till Backhaus (SPD) about the “Blue Ship” case (Form 8/285 with questions to the government). No answer was given. And there’s not to this day. 


    According to the “Nordkurier”, Minister Backhaus merely pointed out that “the foundation acts economically on its responsibility and the state government does not have any influence.” To put it simply, the foundation, which was set up by Prime Minister Manuela Schwesig, bought a 5.6-ton ship with which it contributed to the completion of the pipeline, and “the state government does not influence it.” Daniel Peters, quoted by the “Nordkurier”, does not harbour his frustration: “This ship is indirectly owned by the country, and I do not understand why the government refuses to reveal its mission and who hired its crew.” The CDU member said he would not leave the matter as he believed that Parliament should have control over the activities of the foundation he had founded. But now – and for more than two weeks – the subject has remained silent. It is doubtful that the government and Manuela Schwesig, who have been trying for years to bring the gas project to its last stop. Especially since Erwin Sellering has already announced that “Nord Stream 2 was only one of the Foundation’s objectives, and that it was limited in time, and since that objective has been achieved in practice, it will now be possible to focus on the actual work, i.e., rewarding pre-school children for planting trees and supporting the scientific project “aimed at turf rolls from seagrass.”


    Pictures of Rügen and 2020-2021 flashback


    Rügen, Germany’s largest island on the southwestern coast of the Baltic Sea and part of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Maybe one day it will become a Mecca for Erwin Sellering’s rolled grass amateurs, who knows. Once upon a time, a thousand years ago, the Slavic Rana – here on the rocky northern cape of the island of Arkona – stood the last pagan sanctuary of the Polish Slavs. The pagan Troy of the North fell in 1168 under the blows of the Danes, and the Slavic inhabitants became Germanic over the centuries. Some of the gloomy atmospheres of northern paganism remained in the air, however, because the rocky landscapes and the natural mysticism of the island attracted German romantics with the ingenious Caspar David Friedrich at the top.


    But today hardly anyone remembers pagan statues and romantic dreams. The emotions in the rocky north awaken only daily, short-term and pragmatic things. This is the autumn of 2020. In America, Donald Trump is still reigning, and in Russia, Navalny makes us worried. What does all this have to do with the picturesque island in northern Germany? It is clear that the people of Rügen, particularly from the political and economic spheres, are concerned about the fate of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. After all, the “populist” president, who is unpopular in Germany, makes no secret of the fact that he wants to end the Russian-German “only business” idea with sanctions. To make things worse, in this case, Trump agrees with much of the US Congress. What about the Russians? Well, the brutal confrontation of the Putin regime with the opposition does not make it any easier for the stubborn proponents of “pragmatic” German-Russian cooperation. 


    “The Cold War on Rügen” was the dramatic title of Antje Hildebrandt’s report, which was published in October 2020 in the magazine “Cicero.” The reporter paints a picture of a community waiting for the gas pipeline and worried about the real losses that the local economy will suffer if the construction works are stopped. Are you talking about Navalny and human rights? Of course, they are, but there is a consensus that cooperation is necessary and that Trump’s sanctions contradict the “reality of the energy market.” On the island, a letter from U.S. senators threatened sanctions against a person involved in the construction of the port of Sassnitz. The CDU local politician Christine Zillmer said at the time that she had “been speechless” after reading a letter from America. But Zillmer is from the “pro-Atlantic” CDU, so she wanted to invite Trump and his colleagues to the island and clear up misunderstandings. Politicians of the local post-communist Die Linke did not want to invite anyone and put on their election posters the slogan: “Rügen defends itself.”


    But time goes by. It is June 2021. Democracy is back in America, Angela Merkel has sent her best negotiators to Washington, and the democratic and sympathetic President Biden decided that the sanctions are, first of all, ineffective, and secondly, they spoil the “Atlantic relations,” so the American-German relations. No fantasies about “three seas,” calling Europe again via Berlin. So, they can build and they can talk. It is true that in Russia not everything is fine, Navalny is imprisoned, Belarus is pacified… But since the first Russlandtag (Russian Day) in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern was organized in 2014 despite the annexation of Crimea, these temporary difficulties in the field of human rights will not prevent dialogue at the beginning of the summer of 2021.


    So, let’s look at the Fourth Russlandtag in Mecklenburg. What was held at the Stadthalle in Rostock? Let’s start with the list of honorary guests – Denis Walentynovich Manturov, Minister of Industry and Trade of the Russian Federation, Alexander Drozdenko, Governor of the St. Petersburg oblast and the Russian ambassador to Berlin Sergey Yurievich Nechayev – this one with the historic name of a Soviet school diplomat, began his career at the embassy in the GDR and he probably knows very well how to talk to Germans. On the German side – the aforementioned Erwin Sellering, Olivier Hermes, chairman of the Committee on Economic Relations with Eastern Europe representing wide business circles – an institution very active also in economic relations with Poland, and finally Matthias Platzeck, former prime minister of Brandenburg and chairman of the SPD, currently head of the German-Russian Forum.” 


    Let’s be honest – this circle of influential gentlemen is not only an ornament of the local party of ambitious Prime Minister Manuela Schwesig. Rather, it is a forum for frank talks on German-Russian interests which makes use of a favourable local context. Let us now leave the dignitaries on both sides, for now, let us skip the content of the speeches and mutual courtesies. Let’s take a look at the working workshops because here we talk about the future. Workshop number one – topic: Russian-German hydrogen partnership. Torsten Murin from the Russian oil and gas division of Wintershall Dea and Ulrike Kramm, who deals with the use of hydrogen, professor at the Technical University of Darmstadt. There is parity, there is a cooperation between science and business. Perfect world. Mr Gero Böhmer from the Willo SE concern – a manufacturer of pumping systems with a respectable 19th-century record – outlines tempting forecasts of German-Russian cooperation in the use of hydrogen. Mr Steffen Ebert assures us that Nord Stream 2 is about to be completed (let us remind you – it is June 2021) and you do not have to worry about Europe’s energy security. Representatives of Russian companies talk about the possibilities of exporting hydrogen and hopes for green energy in some regions of Russia.


    Dear Reader, if you hear again how German politicians announce that Nord Stream 2 will not start, or how German journalists are ashamed of Gerhard Schröder, and Polish experts are very happy about it – then take a deep breath, drink a good coffee, the best if sold in Poland by German companies, and go for a walk. Regardless of what Putin does in Ukraine, when Nord Stream 2 is launched or not, and how the story unfolds, those people do their job. And real cooperation is born far from media hype. Another Russlandtag in picturesque Mecklenburg already in 2023. Have a nice walk.


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