When German Environmentalists and Putin’s Government Had a Burning Love Affair

In 2011, the German Baltic Sea Nature Conservation Foundation was established as a result of an agreement between three of Germany’s leading environmental organizations – WWF, BUND and NABU – and the company Nord Stream, which is a subsidiary of the government of Vladimir Putin.

These environmental organizations were, moreover, at the same time fiercely opposed to German civil nuclear power, to the exploitation of shale gas in Europe and to the import of American gas via the construction of liquefied petroleum gas terminals in Germany.

Those were three issues where the views of the environmental organizations were totally congruent with those of the Russian Federation. This meant betting everything on “red” — as in a casino — but in this instance, on Russian gas.

Right after these contractual commitments by Nord Stream AG, the environmental organizations withdrew the lawsuit they had initiated against Nord Stream…

The German press reported last month that, inspired by the success of the first foundation, the same State of Mecklenberg-Western Pomerania was setting up a new foundation as recently as January 2021, the Mecklenberg-Western Pomerania Foundation for Climate and Environmental Protection, this time endowed with 192 million euros from the Russian government.

In 2011, the German Baltic Sea Nature Conservation Foundation (Naturschutzstiftung Deutsche Ostsee) was created as a result of an agreement between Nord-Stream, the three main environmental organisations in Germany — WWF, BUND (“Friends of the Earth”), NABU — and the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. This foundation was immediately provided with a lucrative budget of ten million euros by Nord Stream.

Based in Zug, Switzerland, Nord Stream AG is an international consortium of five major companies established in 2005 for the planning, construction and subsequent operation of two 1,224-kilometres long gas pipelines across the Baltic Sea. The five shareholders of the consortium are Gazprom International Projects LLC, Wintershall Dea AG, PEG Infrastruktur AG, N.V. Nederlandse Gasunie and ENGIE. Gazprom International Projects LLC holds a 51% stake in the project.

Gazprom International Projects LLC is wholly owned by Gazprom, the world’s largest publicly listed natural gas company, which is majority-owned and fully controlled by the Russian government.

The top management positions at the German Baltic Sea Nature Conservation Foundation were offered to the CEOs of these three largest German environmental organizations who were quick to accept, which is hardly surprising, given that this was part of the original agreement with the Moscow Bear.

These environmental organizations are trying to escape their overwhelming historical responsibilities by arguing, as BUND explained, that the agreement with Nord Stream on the creation of the German Baltic Sea Nature Conservation Foundation was only intended to “promote the implementation of complex nature conservation measures”:

"In order to implement the complex measures as effectively as possible for nature and to secure them permanently, Nord Stream made the agreed compensation funds available in March 2011 for the establishment of the German Baltic Sea Nature Conservation Foundation... With the Baltic Sea Foundation, it is possible to develop, support and implement suitable projects in a professionally sound manner and with great expertise, and thus also to effectively compensate for the damage caused by the Baltic Sea pipeline. The non-profit Baltic Sea Foundation acts independently of the founder and is solely committed to its statutory objectives of promoting practical nature conservation and environmental protection measures at the Baltic Sea. To ensure that these funds are actually used to implement meaningful nature conservation work, WWF, NABU and BUND participate in the foundation's committees."

Let us try to see it clearly.

The reality of this agreement was stated by Nord Stream at the time of the foundation’s creation in 2011:

"From today, the environmental organizations WWF, BUND and NABU will work closely together with the State of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Nord Stream AG in the German Baltic Sea Nature Conservation Foundation (...) Jochen Lamp from WWF Germany will chair the board. The first deputy is Corinna Cwielag from BUND Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania."

The website of the German Baltic Sea Nature Conservation Foundation states:

"The German Baltic Sea Nature Conservation Foundation... was established in 2011 following an agreement between Nord Stream AG and the environmental organizations BUND Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and WWF Germany."

Finally, the official statement from the state government concerned, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, reads:

"The creation of the foundation is the consistent realisation of the agreements for more nature conservation that the environmental organizations BUND and WWF Germany concluded with the company Nord Stream last year. In the foundation, representatives of BUND and WWF form the board of directors together with the State Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, Environment and Consumer Protection. (...) WWF CEO Jochen Lamp regards the establishment of the foundation as a great success for the protection of the marine environment (...) Representatives of NABU, the State Chancellery of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and the founder also work together in the 'curatorium', the strategic supervisory body of the new foundation."

To sum up, it is therefore a matter of fact and established law that in 2011, the German Baltic Sea Nature Conservation Foundation was established as a result of an agreement between three of Germany’s leading environmental organizations – WWF, BUND and NABU – and the company Nord Stream, which is a subsidiary of the government of Vladimir Putin. Fact.

These environmental organizations were, moreover, at the same time fiercely opposed to German civil nuclear power, to the exploitation of shale gas in Europe and to the import of American gas via the construction of liquefied petroleum gas terminals in Germany.

Those were three issues where the views of the environmental organizations were totally congruent with those of the Russian Federation. This meant betting everything on “red” — as in a casino — but in this instance, on Russian gas.

Right after these contractual commitments by Nord Stream AG, the environmental organizations withdrew the lawsuit they had initiated against Nord Stream, as stated by BUND at the time. Quid pro quo, anyone?

Finally, the German press reported last month that, inspired by the success of the first foundation, the same State of Mecklenberg-Western Pomerania was setting up a new foundation as recently as January 2021, the Mecklenberg-Western Pomerania Foundation for Climate and Environmental Protection (Stiftung Klima- und Umweltschutz Mecklenburg-Vorpommern), this time endowed with 192 million euros from the Russian government. To quote the centre-left German daily Die Zeit:

"The Foundation for Climate and Environmental Protection was established at the beginning of 2021 by the government of [Mecklenberg-Western Pomerania's] Minister-President Manuela Schwesig (SPD). Officially, it was to promote environmental protection projects in the country... [and] received a total of 192 million euros from Nord Stream 2 AG, a subsidiary of Gazprom. The money was paid out between February and November 2021."

The German newspaper Die Welt wrote that the 192 million euros “benefited 80 service providers, who received 119 orders worth 165 million euros from the business enterprise set up within the environmental foundation.” In its principles, this new foundation states that “the Foundation is interested in cooperating with the numerous initiatives, associations and foundations in climate protection… with a great deal of expertise.” In Russian money?

The case is currently being examined by a commission of inquiry of the Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania state parliament, which was scheduled to begin its work at the end of August 2022. It is likely that, considering the seriousness of the facts, Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz and his predecessor, Angela Merkel, will be questioned.

The members of state parliament, Die Welt continues, also want to shed light on the role that the Russian secret services have played in the background. The current Interior Minister of Mecklenberg-Western Pomerania state, Christian Pegel (SPD), is particularly targeted:

"As Minister of Energy, this lawyer had once been instrumental in drawing up the foundation's statutes. In order to do this, Pegel met with representatives of the Russian-dominated Nord Stream 2 AG in circumstances that seem suspicious, without keeping any records. It is therefore not possible to know what agreements and arrangements were made on this occasion. For its part, Pegel claims that he no longer knows exactly what happened at the time. Through a spokeswoman, the minister told this newspaper: 'Insofar as he was involved in informal or formal discussions, he has no concrete recollection due to the passage of time."

A real short-term memory problem: the foundation was created last year.

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