Lars Klingbeil will now be head of the SPD alongside Saskia Esken.

That changes the balance of the party leadership.

So far she was on the left.

Klingbeil, however, is one of the pragmatic “Seeheimers”.

He's not a stranger to the Bundeswehr, and he gets along well with Olaf Scholz.

That's the page. The other is that Klingbeil's pragmatism also applies to Russia, more precisely: to business with Russia. There are people in the SPD who still see business like this objectively when President Vladimir Putin is waging wars of conquest. Klingbeil sought and seeks her nearness. At the beginning of his career he worked for the SPD MP Heino Wiese, who later helped Russian steel barons with their business and became a Russian honorary consul. Then the two met again on the board of trustees of the German-Russian “Young Leaders” conference, which was financed by the Russian energy giant Gazprom and the Russian state railway.

But more important is the connection to the former Federal Chancellor Gerhard Schröder.

Klingbeil once worked in his constituency office and calls him his "friend".

The fact that Schröder is now in the service of the Russian state corporations Nord Stream and Rosneft, and that he for his part calls Putin a “friend”, even if he fights kettle battles in Ukraine or has barrel bombs dropped in Syria, has not changed that.

In 2017, Klingbeil invited Schröder to events shortly before the federal election, although the SPD top candidate Martin Schulz had already disapproved of his business at the time.

Now, in 2021, he's done it again.

Clouded view of Russia

And of course Klingbeil also makes the bomb-proof permanent assertion of his paid friend that the Russian Baltic Sea pipelines Nord Stream 1 and 2 are by no means geopolitical weapons in Putin's fight against Ukraine, but "industrial projects" in the service of German jobs. When Manuela Schwesig, SPD Prime Minister of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, once told this old story in the Bundestag and was beaten, Klingbeil jumped at her. Coincidence or not: Schwesig's office boss Heiko Geue was one of Gerhard Schröder's speechwriters twenty years ago - exactly at the time when Klingbeil was also working for Schröder. Here a fabric becomes visible that obscures the SPD's view of Russia.

But there is another obstacle to perception in this party.

It is the connection between a historical sense of guilt against Russia and that fundamental post-war pacifism that blocked the view of the Soviet Union on the German left in the old Federal Republic.

Klingbeil is not suspicious here.

He comes from a family of soldiers and he has publicly demanded that German soldiers be protected by armed drones.

That shows courage.

At this point, however, Saskia Esken steps on the podium.

It is not one of Putin's pragmatists, but it represents the generation that did not recognize Moscow's nuclear blackmail even during the Soviet era.

Today this current wants to spend less on defense, and if Russia directs new nuclear weapons against Europe, it will condemn anything that might look like counter-defense.

So now the pragmatists of business and idealists of peace want to share the leadership of the SPD.

The Greens and the FDP cannot leave foreign policy to this party.

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