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Former German chancellor Schröder says West must negotiate with Putin

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Germany’s former chancellor Gerhard Schröder says he can still imagine that his friendship with Russian President Vladimir Putin could contribute to ending the war in Ukraine.

“We have worked together sensibly for many years. Perhaps that can still help to find a negotiated solution, I don’t see any other way,” Schröder said in an interview with dpa.

Schröder has been friends with Putin since his time as chancellor from 1998 to 2005 and continues to work for the majority Russian companies of the Nord Stream pipelines through the Baltic Sea. Although he has described the Russian attack on Ukraine as a “fatal mistake,” he has not renounced Putin.

The leadership of his Social Democratic Party has marginalized him for this reason, but an expulsion procedure against him failed.

When asked why he is maintaining his friendship with the Russian president despite tens of thousands of deaths and Russian war crimes in the Ukraine war, Schröder replied, “It’s true that this is a dimension that is different.”

It had once looked as if this personal relationship could be helpful in solving an extremely difficult political problem. “And that’s why I think it would be completely wrong to forget all the positive things that have happened between us in politics in the past. That’s not my style and I don’t do that either,” he said.

Schröder was alluding to his mediation mission in March 2022 shortly after the Russian attack on Ukraine, when Schröder said he first met the then Ukrainian parliamentarian and current defence minister Rustem Umerov in Istanbul and travelled on to Moscow for talks with Putin. However, the initiative failed.

Today, Schröder is in favour of a new attempt at mediation at the government level.

“France and Germany would have to take the initiative. It is obvious that the war cannot end with the total defeat of one side or the other.”

Schröder described speculation that Putin could start a nuclear war or attack a NATO country on the eastern flank as “nonsense.”

In order to nip an escalation towards such scenarios in the bud and prevent the population from becoming more worried, serious thought must be given to a solution to the conflict in addition to support for Ukraine, he emphasized.

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