Angela Merkel, Nord Stream 2, and the political past she prefers not to talk about

During what is likely to be the German leader's final visit to the White House before she retires from politics, German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed to disagree with U.S. President Joe Biden over the Nord Stream 2 Russian pipeline project.

Biden reiterated his concerns about the pipeline being built under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany. The $11 billion project, which is expected to be finished in September, will bypass Ukraine, potentially depriving it of much needed transit fees.

Speculation is rife in Brussels that Frau Merkel may follow in the footsteps of her predecessor Gerhard Schröder and step into a lucrative role in the Russian oil and gas sector. Schröder, himself an advocate of Nord Stream 1, was rewarded for his labours by the Kremlin with the position of head of the shareholders' committee of Nord Stream AG, raising serious questions about a potential conflict of interest.

A few weeks prior to Schröder leaving the Chancellery, the German government had guaranteed to cover €1 billion euros of the Nord Stream project cost, should Gazprom default on a loan.

Later, in 2017, whilst Rosneft was under Western sanctions over Russia's role in the Ukraine crisis, Schröder was appointed as an independent director of the board of Russia's oil producer on an annual salary of around €290,000.

At the same time, Frau Merkel was busy criticising a first draft of new U.S. sanctions against Russia targeting EU–Russia energy projects, including Nord Stream 2.

“I do not think what Mr Schröder is doing is okay,” she told Bild newspaper in an interview broadcast live online. “I don’t intend to take any posts in industry once I am no longer chancellor..."

A fluent Russian speaker, her background bears close scrutiny.

Educated at Karl Marx University, Leipzig, Frau Merkel was later to become a member of the secretariat of the Free German Youth (FDJ), the official communist youth movement sponsored by the ruling Marxist–Leninist Socialist Unity Party of Germany. She has claimed that her work with the FDJ was largely "cultural."

But others disagree. Günther Krause worked with her in the final months of the GDR and as a fellow minister in the government ex-chancellor Helmut Kohl - who referred to Frau Merkel as his "assassin" - in the early 1990s.

With Agitation and Propaganda you're responsible for brainwashing in the sense of Marxism. That was her task and that wasn't cultural work. Agitation and Propaganda, that was the group that was meant to fill people's brains with everything you were supposed to believe in the GDR, with all the ideological tricks. And what annoys me about this woman is simply the fact that she doesn't admit to a closeness to the system in the GDR. From a scientific standpoint she wasn't indispensable at the Academy of Sciences. But she was useful as a pastor's daughter in terms of Marxism-Leninism. And she's denying that. But it's the truth.

Former German Transport Minister Günther Krause

A biography covering her life in East Germany, 'The First Life of Angela M.' published in 2013 and written by journalists Günther Lachmann and Ralf Georg Reuth, refers to discussions that she, her father, and brother Marcus had with other people on September 1989.

22 The First Life Of Angela M 22

For them, the biography said, German unification was still inconceivable at that point "not just because it wouldn't have fitted into the bipolar world but because they strictly rejected the Western system of society."

It quotes Frau Merkel as having said at the time "If we reform the GDR, it won't be in terms of the Federal Republic."

Whether or not she sticks by her promise to turn down any role in industry, she will leave behind her a major point of friction point between Berlin and Washington, and one that will give Vladimir Putin the greatest leverage over the west any Soviet or Russian leader has ever known.

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Phillipe Jeune

Phillipe Jeune

Phillipe Jeune is a Paris-based freelance journalist, and an occasional contributor to EU Today. He has a background in intelligence gathering, and he specialises in business and political matters, with a particular interest in Central Asia, the Middle East, and the Americas.

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