In what is probably the best-known German song about Russia, there is the beautiful line “Let your balalaika sing / What my guitar wants to say”.

In recent years, however, German energy policy towards Russia has tended to work the other way around: German guitarists followed the balalaika on the Moskva.

If you want to find out how this came about, you should also take a look at the city where the "Scorpions" come from: Hanover.

Because the fateful dependency of Germany can be summed up in a three-city formula: from Hanover, decisions were taken on what was to be decided in Berlin and later carried out in Schwerin.

The particular openness to Russian concerns is not due to the fact that there is a higher demand for Russian natural gas in the Lower Saxony state capital than in other regions - on the contrary: wind power and its own German LNG terminals are in the interests of the north-west German state.

The focus on Russia derives solely from the fact that Putin's most important man in Germany resides in Hanover.

Leading Social Democrats have always asserted that Gerhard Schröder has had little influence since leaving the Chancellery and that his network no longer exists.

In fact, however, Schröder's shadow lay further over the party.

A significant part of these connections goes back to his time as Prime Minister of Lower Saxony from 1990 to 1998.

Many SPD politicians, who have played a key role in shaping German energy policy in recent years, began their careers in Hanover under Schröder and then moved to Berlin.

Today's Federal President Frank Walter Steinmeier is one of them, but also the former Economics Minister Sigmar Gabriel, his successor Brigitte Zypries and other SPD politicians.

As a pipeline lobbyist, the former chancellor made extensive use of these contacts.

At the weekend they met in the "G6" box

In Lower Saxony, meanwhile, after the SPD came back to power in 2013, a Russian kitsch was established that was not found elsewhere in Germany.

The Scorpions singer Klaus Meine whistled his "Wind of Change", Schröder casually indulged in détente politics, and at the weekend they met in the "G6" box in the Hannover 96 stadium.

In retrospect, Prime Minister Stephan Weil should be happy that he himself was not one of Schröder's closest confidants.

When it came to Russia, however, Weil was also among those who allowed themselves to be dazzled and who are now also feeling the wind of change.

Because as late as 2021, Weil was still advocating the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline by declaring Ukraine, not Russia, to be a risk to German energy supply.

Such misjudgments were also based on ignorance of internal developments in Putin's empire.

Only once, on his first trip in 2013, did Weil meet opposition figures in Moscow.

This behavior reflects a traditional deficit in the policy of détente, which has been vehemently defended by the SPD to this day and which has always relied on good relations with those in power there instead of civil society in Eastern Europe.

Foreign policy debacle

In the 2017 state election campaign, Weil also ignored it without comment when his migration officer Doris Schröder-Köpf got involved with Putin's disinformation slingshot "Sputnik" for the pottage of some Russian-German voters.

Even then, that was a blatant violation of good morals in a well-fortified democracy.

The fact that Schröder-Köpf, who was also part of the Moscow connection in Hanover, still describes her actions at the time as "quite normal" and now welcomes Ukrainian refugees on behalf of the country, is an intolerable situation.

But he agrees with the SPD's lack of will to adequately address its uncritical attitude towards Moscow and thus dispel the suspicion that tacky pecuniary interests also played a role.

After the attack on Ukraine, Prime Minister Weil initially tried to hush up his own misjudgments.

Only under the pressure of the public debate and obviously in close coordination with the other SPD grandees does he now make concessions and increasingly distance himself from the mysteriously defiant Schröder.

But that's not enough in view of a Russia policy that has been largely pushed by the SPD, which has brought the country the biggest foreign policy debacle in decades.

Further clarification is necessary - in Schwerin, in Berlin and in Hanover.

For the SPD, this should also be a question of their own honor.

Keywords: