Election campaign in NRW: What contacts to Russia did the parties have? The election campaign has just begun -. Already degenerates into a mud fight. CDU and SPD accuse each other of close relations with Russia. What is the truth of the claims?
By Nina Magoley and Lucas Tenberg
What's the point of the mutual accusations?
Political scientist sees mistakes on both sides
"Best Buddies": Putin (li.) and Schroder (re.)
Or on Social Democrat Manuela Schwesig, who as Minister President of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania is involved in a foundation that is helping to finance the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.
Neither politician is from North Rhine-Westphalia – but Minister President Hendrik Wust (CDU) is certain: "The SPD's 'Russia problem' extends all the way to NRW ."
Sauer: SPD top candidate Thomas Kutschaty
This accusation is "constructed", says Volker Kronenberg, professor of political science at the University of Bonn. Kutschaty, however, had provided the CDU with an opportunity to launch its latest attacks by demonstratively siding with Schwesig when the latter came under criticism for Nord Stream 2. " That was completely unnecessary and a strategic mistake", says the party researcher.
Tobias Blasius, long-time political journalist and head of the state press conference, even considers the CDU's accusation against the SPD to be "absurd" : CDU Prime Minister Laschet in particular had long had a reputation as the" Putin-Versteher" confessed. "Laschet was convinced that major problems could not be solved without talking to Russia. " NRW had wanted Russian gas, and for Laschet it had always been clear that "as" a energy-hungry federal state must ensure an adequate relationship with Russia" .
Change through rapprochement has been the consensus for decades
But he also says that there has been cross-party consensus since the Willy Brandt era that Germany should maintain diplomatic contact with Russia, a nuclear power, at all levels. "Change through rapprochement" – this had been true in German politics at least until the war of aggression on the Ukraine. What connections were there. Are there from NRW to Russia?As of 2017, the black-yellow state government under Armin Laschet had, according to its own formulation" close contacts" to Russia" especially in the fields of business and science" . For example, a report by the state government on European and international cooperation states that Economics Minister Andreas Pinkwart (FDP ) traveled to St. Petersburg in 2019 with a 40-member delegation.
Economics Minister Pinkwart (3.v.r.) in St. Petersburg
Science Minister Isabel Pfeiffer-Poensgen (nonpartisan) went to Moscow several times to" bilateral relations in culture and science" as well as" joint cultural projects to support, as it is said. The state of North Rhine-Westphalia has also maintained a contact office for research and university cooperation in Moscow since 2007, when it was also governed by the CDU.
Minister President Laschet (li.) and the Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov (re.)
Laschet and Pinkwart also took part in numerous German-Russian meetings, conferences and background discussions. Laschet also met repeatedly with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov – for example, in June 2019 on the sidelines of the Petersburg Dialogue.
However, there had been no official trips to Russia during the current legislative period by the CDU parliamentary group The party emphasizes when asked that no measures have been organized or undertaken in the past. The same applies to the state parliamentary groups of SPD, FDP and Greens.
Whereby the Green emphasize, it has" there were isolated exchanges, especially with the Russian civil society" . For example, Stefan Engstfeld, a member of parliament, recently spoke at an anti-war demonstration organized by people of Russian origin who were critical of Putin. Mehrdad Mostofizadeh, a member of parliament, had met a group of ten visitors from Russia, including local journalists, in 2019.
Contacts also during the term of office of Hannelore Kraft
In the red-green-led term of office of Hannelore Kraft (SPD) there have apparently been no major delegation trips to Russia, according to parliamentary reports. For this, there were various events in which Russian and North Rhine-Westphalian representatives discussed with each other.
" Despite the strained relations with the Russian Federation and the sanctions policy of the European Union, the state government continued the existing professional contacts in 2014" , says in addition in a parliamentary report. A planned entrepreneurial trip, however, was canceled. For this, the State Secretary in the Ministry of Economics, Gunther Horzetzky, traveled to the International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg in 2014 and 2015 for example.
In 2016, Munster hosted the 1. Russian-North Rhine-Westphalian science conference held. And in 2012, the red-green state government established a contact office of the state-owned NRW Economic Development Corporation in St. Petersburg.INVEST, since 2013 also one in Moscow. Their activities" rest" Currently.
In retrospect, political journalist Blasius says that the Red-Green government under Hannlore Kraft could hardly be said to be particularly close to Russia. "Kraft has never belonged to the network of Russia friends at the SPD." had been more focused on transatlantic contacts.
Controversial statements by leading politicians in NRW
In addition to the many contacts, there have also been controversial statements by leading politicians in recent years. Thus tweeted Laschet In 2015, when he was still the parliamentary party leader of the CDU in North Rhine-Westphalia, he said that a solution to the conflict in Syria could only be found with Russia. In the talk show at Anne Will he affirmed:" It's good that Putin is involved in Syria."
The former Dusseldorf SPD Lord Mayor Thomas Geisel received an award for his" work in the Russian consulate general in Bonn just seven days before the start of the war in Ukraine great contribution to the development of partnerships with Moscow" during its term in office, as the consulate tweeted:
In mid-April, Geisel sharply attacked Ukrainian Ambassador Andrij Melnyk in a blog entry. He referred to it as" PR -Professional" and accused him of using targeted rhetoric to portray the situation in Ukraine as more dramatic than it actually was.
SPD top candidate Kutschaty called on Geisel to delete the entry again. Apparently with success: The entry is now offline .