Lars Klingbeil wants to clarify the SPD’s Russia course

EIt was supposed to be an internal meeting, without much fanfare. But it was not only Moscow’s troop deployment on the border with Ukraine that gave explosiveness to the discussion between almost 20 social democrats on Monday afternoon, which was supposed to be about dealing with Russia. Former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder was added as an unappointed advertising drummer. “I really hope that the saber-rattling in Ukraine will finally stop,” said the 77-year-old former prime minister at the weekend.

Schröder acted as if Kiev were about to invade Greater Russia. Blaming Berlin from Ukraine would “knock the bottom out,” Schröder rumbled, referring to Germany’s controversial refusal to supply arms to Kiev. The Russian leadership could have no interest in “intervening militarily in Ukraine,” Schröder shared his world view in a podcast.

In the SPD, Schröder’s words initially went uncommented. Only foreign policy expert Michael Roth said he had “complete understanding” for Ukraine’s need for protection, “that has nothing to do with saber-rattling”. On Monday morning, SPD chairman Lars Klingbeil also stepped away from the former chancellor; he counts Schröder among his friends and once worked as a student in his constituency office. “Many can express themselves,” he said about Schröder’s initiative. “But we, the current SPD leadership, will decide,” of course together with Chancellor Olaf Scholz. The escalation comes from Russia. Now it’s a matter of “having as many talks as possible” and “organizing peace”.

Union criticizes Schroeder

Many in the SPD are annoyed that Schröder is driving his party into the parade again. The Union used the former Chancellor’s statements to annoy the Social Democrats. Hamburg’s CDU state chairman Christoph Ploß demanded that Schröder lose his office in the Bundestag along with his staff, a privilege to which all former chancellors are entitled.

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