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Sep 27, 2021
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Germany without Merkel: should there be a “Nord Stream-2”

Germany without Merkel: should there be a

Photo: AP / TASS

On September 26, parliamentary elections were held in Germany, following which, for the first time in 16 years, a government without Angela Merkel, retired. The victory was won by the Social Democratic Party (SPD), and the Christian Democratic and Christian Social Union (CDU / CSU), without its long-term leader Merkel, took only second place. True, the gap turned out to be small – 25.7% (206 seats for the SPD) versus 24.1% (196 seats for the CDU / CSU).

Compared to the 2017 elections, the CDU / CSU result deteriorated by 8.9%, the SPD received 5.2% more. But in any case, such a result makes it necessary to create a coalition with other parliamentary parties, and these are the Greens (14.8% and 118 seats), the Free Democratic Party (FDP, 11.5% and 92 mandates). Alternative for Germany (10, 3% and 83 mandates), Leftists (4.9%, 39 mandates).

It should be noted that both the right-wing and the left-wing have lost part of their voters in comparison with the previous elections – 2.3% and 4.3%, respectively. But the Greens increased their advantage by 5.9%. Readiness to form a government announced as a candidate for the post of chancellor from the SPD Olaf Scholz, and the candidate from the CDU / CSU Armin Laschet.

Now negotiations on the formation of a ruling coalition will begin in Germany, and only after that a new chancellor of the country will be elected. Experts told SP, there are many options for a parliamentary union, but none of them will be very sympathetic to Russia. Historically, it is believed that the SPD is more favorably disposed towards Moscow, but that is precisely what it is historically. The current leader of the party, Olaf Scholz, was not noticed in Russophile sentiments. On the other hand, both the Greens and the FDP, which may enter the ruling coalition, are even very anti-Russian.

However, this does not mean that they will be able to stop the implementation of Nord Stream 2. According to analysts, whoever comes to power, the pipeline will be launched, as business insists on it, and the current situation with gas prices has proven its relevance.

Alexander Kamkin, Leading Researcher, Center for German Studies, Institute of Europe, Russian Academy of Sciences believes that Angela Merkel’s party will have to go into opposition and prepare for the next elections:

– I do not think that the CDU / CSU will agree to the role of a junior partner in the reincarnation of the grand coalition. Purely hypothetically, there is such a possibility, for example, a coalition of the CDU / CSU with the SPD and free democrats. This is the so-called coalition in the colors of the German flag. But even purely organizationally, it is more profitable for Christian Democrats to go into opposition in order to rebrand and prepare for new elections.

In my opinion, the most likely is the so-called traffic light coalition – Social Democrats, Greens and Free Democrats. This option is already being discussed, although at first the FDP leader said that it was unlikely, but then his deputy said that they were ready to negotiate.

I believe that this option is more likely than a red-red-green coalition, that is, an alliance of the SPD, the “greens” and the left. The Left Party performed rather weakly in the elections, and the total number of seats in such a coalition will be critical for making important decisions. The “traffic light” coalition guarantees a fairly confident majority in the Bundestag.

Although it should be borne in mind that the parties have different positions on some issues, so how efficient this coalition will be, time will tell.

“SP”: – And if the CDU agrees with the rest of the parties, it will not be able to form a majority?

– This is out of the question, because the CDU lost the elections. The coalition is formed by the winning party. A difference of 1-2% is enough, and the issue is practically resolved. The SPD will definitely become the senior partner, and the CDU can either join as a junior partner or go into opposition.

“SP”: – Who will become the new chancellor of the FRG?

– Voting on the candidacy of the chancellor will be held after a while jointly by the deputies of the new Bundestag and the Bundesrat, that is, the upper house. It is already clear that Olaf Scholz will be nominated, but how he will be voted for will depend on the coalition negotiations. I am quite optimistic that he will be elected on the first try.

“SP”: – How will the “traffic light” coalition build relations with Russia, can we hope for improvement?

– On the whole, the position of the Social Democrats is quite sensible and realistic on the issue of German-Russian cooperation. Infrastructure projects will continue, Nord Stream 2 will be launched.

The presence of the Greens in the coalition will become a deterrent to making certain decisions, and indeed an annoying factor. But the Greens will still be junior partners, and much will depend on which particular ministries they receive. Completely shut off the Nord Stream valve to their leader Mrs. Bourbock, I think it won’t.

“SP”: – So, nothing threatens the gas pipeline?

– There will be Nord Stream 2, but various attempts to diversify or green it, for example, within the framework of a hydrogen discussion, cannot be ruled out. It cannot be ruled out that appropriate capacities will be built in Germany to transform methane into hydrogen, but this is a question for the future. Even the “greens” are not, I think, in a position to completely block Nord Stream 2.

If the hydrogen really goes off, which is not yet guaranteed, I do not exclude the possibility that one more line of the pipeline will be continued along the Nord Stream for it.

“SP”: – The SPD is considered a more friendly-minded party in relation to Russia, is that so?

– It was in the past. Scholz is not Willie Brandt. He is a clear transatlanticist and advocates the primacy of transatlantic dialogue. We can say that on the issue of the Russian vector, both the CDU and the SPD proceed from similar positions, so the coming to power of the Social Democrats will not bring anything revolutionary. There will be systematic, phased cooperation between Russia and Germany. Probably, there will be shifts somewhere, but they will be of an evolutionary nature. In my opinion, one should not expect a sharp turn, as it was under Willie Brandt.

Head of the Center for Foreign Policy of Russia at the Institute of Economics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Doctor of Historical Sciences Boris Shmelev does not exclude that a coalition of the Free Democratic Party, the Greens and the CDU / CSU will be created.

– It will not be possible to create a bipartisan coalition based on the number of votes, most likely, it will be a three-party one. If the CDU succeeds in reaching such an agreement, the Social Democrats may not join the ruling coalition. Moreover, their program is quite difficult to combine with the programs of the Greens and the FDP.

In this scenario, at least in Germany’s policy towards Russia, nothing will change. The chancellor in this situation will be a representative of the CDU / CSU, and he will continue the line pursued by Angela Merkel. But it is very possible that there will be a toughening of it, at least a toughening of rhetoric.

“SP”: – And what awaits “Nord Stream-2”?

– Nord Stream 2 has become a central issue in relations between Germany and Russia. German business and the economy need this gas, because the difference between the price at which they receive energy through the pipe and buy on the spot market is huge. For pipeline gas under the contract, they pay $ 220 per thousand cubic meters, while spot prices this month reached almost a thousand.

Therefore, no matter how the Greens or Free Democrats want to close the pipe, the interests of the economy are more important. As said Vladimir Lenin, there are things that are stronger than the desire and unwillingness of the ruling circles – economic interests. And they dictate to Germany the need to develop economic relations with Russia and launch Nord Stream 2. In the current conditions, this in itself means something.

It will be very difficult for the German economy without Russian gas. They closed the coal mines, they also cover the nuclear power industry. Green energy is great, but it has now shown its vulnerability. Therefore, it is not possible to completely replace gas today. And gas for Germany is Russia, and you can’t get away from it.

You can be indignant as much as you like, stamp your feet, but you can’t do without Russian gas. The stake on American LNG has not justified itself, Norway cannot provide the required amount of gas, Africa is unstable, and LNG from Qatar is expensive and also does not cover all needs. Therefore, Germany’s stake is on Russia, no matter how they feel about it.

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