Russia won’t be invading NATO countries, Germany shouldn’t help start a new arms race – Schroeder

Former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder © Stringer
Germany should work to mend relations with Russia rather than taunt it by placing troops in Eastern Europe near its borders, especially in light of Germany’s history as Russia’s invader, former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said in a recent news interview.

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Speaking to Süddeutschen Zeitung, Schroder, who served as Germany’s head from 1998 to 2005, warned NATO that its policies could lead to a new arms race with Russia, saying that they “will help neither to mitigate conflicts with Russia nor restore good relations.”

The former chancellor ridiculed the idea that Russia “may be nurturing a plan to invade NATO-countries,” stressing that the notion is completely out of touch with the real state of affairs.

Schroeder believes that anti-Russian sanctions have proven ineffective and praised the steps taken by Germany’s foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who has been calling to gradually lift them. He is not alone in this view, as several other countries, including France and Italy, have recently suggested that the restrictions on Russia should be at least partially cancelled, as they have backfired and injured the EU’s economy.

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Commenting on the military alliance’s decision to deploy around 4,000 troops in the Baltic States and Poland to ramp up its defense capabilities in the region, Schroeder said that it was inappropriate for Germany to take part in the build-up.

The decision to increase Germany’s military presence in Eastern Europe countries is a “mistake,” Schroeder said, elaborating on similar statements he made last week. Germany bears responsibility for the 27 million people who died in the Soviet Union during the Secord World War, he stressed, saying that “We, Germans, should never forget that.” 

“I think that the fact that Bundeswehr [the German armed forces] will take part in [NATO’s] military build-up is a mistake in the face of our [Russian-German] history,” he said. “Seventy-five years after German troops attacked the Soviet Union, they are going to be placed at Russia’s borders again. What kind of response can this bring? Looks like NATO isn’t thinking about that.”

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Analyzing post-war history, it is easy to see that Russia has always made efforts to meet Germany halfway, notwithstanding the “earthshaking crime Germany committed,” Schroeder noted, adding that it was “surprising that the Soviet people were always eager to reconcile.”

“Germany should try not to lose the privileges it has in geopolitical and economic relations with Russia. It’s important to cooperate with Moscow,” Schroeder concluded.

Relations between Russia, the European Union, and NATO suffered a setback in 2014 when an armed coup in Kiev led to a rebellion in the eastern part of Ukraine that Russia is often blamed for by Western powers. Since then, NATO has been gradually increasing its military presence in countries neighboring Russia, including Poland, Ukraine, and the Baltic States.

Moreover, Crimea voted to break with Kiev and reunite with Russia following the outbreak of violence in Ukraine in 2014, an act which brought on economic sanctions from the West.