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German election: Putin boost after Merkel ally declared Europe ‘needs Russia’

Germany: Host grills CDU member on Armin Laschet

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Olaf Scholz, of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), is a frontrunner in the German elections this weekend and reiterated his desire to form a coalition with The Greens. He has soared past the ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU)/Christian Social Union (CSU) in the polls, the latest putting him five points clear. Following a televised debate on Sunday, a snap election further cemented Mr Scholz’s pole position, with respondents describing him as having won two out of three live debates as candidates enter the final week of campaigning.

Pundits are stunned at the speed at which the CDU/CSU has dive-bombed.

Many blame its new leader, Armin Laschet, for a catalogue of unforced errors, including being caught on camera laughing as the German President made a speech in a town which had been largely destroyed by catastrophic flooding.

His CDU currently trails at 21 percent in the polls, with SPD on 26 percent and rising.

Many are also wary of the direction Mr Laschet might take Germany if he were to win the election and become Chancellor.

In 2019, reports show how he spoke out in favour of closer cooperation with Russia.

Looking back at the policy of détente in the Seventies during the Cold War — the period which marked an easing of tensions between Western powers and the Soviet Union — Mr Laschet said: “Back then, in a tense situation with a totalitarian communist system, threads of conversation were established.

“Then it must be possible for us today too.

“We need Russia for many questions in the world.”

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He continued: “There are many conflicts where we have to move forward without giving up our position under international law, for example on Crimea.

“You can speak plainly and still cooperate in other fields and keep talking.”

Tensions have since flared up between Russia and the rest of Europe after President Putin flooded the country’s shared border with Ukraine with military personnel.

Up to 100,000 troops were at one point stationed along the front without explanation.

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Mr Laschet’s comments on Russia have led many to describe him as a Russlandversteher — a derogatory term for people who take a soft and sympathetic stance on Mr Putin’s Russia, according to Politico.

He is also considered to have a lenient stance on China, as protecting German export industries has been one of his biggest concerns during his political career.

Earlier this year, Mr Laschet told DW that Germany and Europe must keep channels of dialogue with Moscow open.

He stressed that Russia should not be isolated, and said: “People calling for a tougher approach need to say what they mean by a tougher approach.

“We have sanctions, but breaking off diplomatic relations or anything like that would be wrong.”

While Mr Scholz has taken a tougher approach, he too has agreed that Europe must communicate with Russia.

He has suggested the former SPD Chancellor’s policy of Ostpolitik be introduced once again but this time from a united Europe.

Ostpolitik was the Cold War-era detente strategy towards the Soviet Union pursued in the early 1970s by Willy Brandt.

In a recent interview with DW, he said: “There is a good tradition that was established by Willy Brandt … about common security in Europe.

“They include, by the way, the clear statement that we are committed to the idea that borders in Europe should no longer be moved by force.

“Russia has violated this.”

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