Scholz and Putin: time to negotiate. First partial withdrawal from the Russians

from Paolo Valentino

The two leaders say they want to avoid war. The head of the Kremlin on Schröder: you must be grateful to him

BERLIN – “Our damned duty is to avoid a war in Europe,” says Olaf Scholz at the end of the long meeting with Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin. “Russia does not want war,” replies the host. He came to the bear’s den, the German chancellor. And not without surprise, he didn’t find him angry. P.withdrawn from the announcement of the start of a withdrawal from the borders with Ukraine, Scholz is welcomed by the Russian president without aggressive toneseven if it still lasts in substance.

The interview takes place at the same six-meter long “made in Cantù” table, where Putin had talked with Emmanuel Macron. The distance between the two leaders is even wider at the press conference, perhaps because the chancellor refused the molecular test of the Kremlin doctors, preferring to have the PCR done by a doctor from the German embassy. Details.

The visit to Moscow is a success for Olaf Scholz, at its true baptism of fire on the international stage. He talked about everything with Putin, the head of the federal government. “No theme was excluded”, including the lack of respect for human rights, the Navalny case, the closure of the Moscow office of Deutsche Welle decided by the Kremlin, the nuclear deal with Iran on which Moscow and Berlin share the need for a revival. But Ukraine dominated the meeting, with the corollary of Nord Stream 2, the true seismograph of Russo-German relations. “The diplomatic paths are not over – says the chancellor at the end – and we must not throw ourselves into a blind alley because it would be a disaster. We are ready with our partners and allies in the EU and NATO and with Russia to discuss concrete steps to improve the security of both sides and the common one ».

Scholz calls the announcement of the partial military withdrawal “a good sign” , hoping it’s just a start. Putin confirms the opening to the dialogue on security in Europe, but warns that the negotiations cannot go too long: “Russia will not allow the situation to get worse”, the president explains, adding that in Donbass “a genocide is underway “. Putin was responding to a question about the request, approved yesterday by the Duma, to recognize the two separatist republics of Lugansk and Donetsk. On the central issue of the requests made by Russia to the Americans, that is the definitive no to Ukraine’s entry into NATO, the Russian president says there is a problem of time: «They tell us that they will not admit Ukraine tomorrow, but only when they are ready. But we want to solve this problem now, in the immediate future, as part of a broader negotiation, ”which would also include intermediate nuclear missiles and transparency measures to build mutual trust.

On the Nord Stream 2 and its consequences, Putin defends the project, which he believes will “strengthen Europe’s energy security” as increased Russian supplies of natural gas will ensure that Germany and other countries obtain it at cheaper prices than other nations. And here Putin breaks a lance in favor of the former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, his personal friend, who sits on the board of directors of Nord Stream 2 (but also in those of Nord Stream 1 and Rosneft) and is one of the most active supporters : to him «the Germans should be grateful». The Russian president, however, specified that even after 2024, when the long-term contracts with Kiev expire, gas will be able to continue to transit also from Ukraine “if there is demand from European buyers, if it will be profitable for us and if the transport system in Ukraine will be functional ”.

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