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Couchsurfing with TrittinRussia beyond the clichés: An evening with Jürgen Trittin, Thilo Wieland and couchsurfer Stephan Orth

© Wintershall/Phil Dera

At a reading for the bestseller “Couchsurfing in Russia”, the author Stephan Orth, Thilo Wieland, the Wintershall board member responsible for Russia, and Jürgen Trittin (German Green Party), deputy chairman of the German-Russian parliamentary group, and Benjamin Bidder, a long-time Moscow correspondent for Spiegel Online, discussed how Russia is perceived beyond the clichés.

More than 120 guests met in the relaxed living room atmosphere of the Berlin Säälchen to listen to the travel reports of Stephan Orth, who often discovered great warmth behind a brusque facade on his couchsurfing tour of Russia. Everyone involved in the discussion agreed with the travel journalist on that aspect. That’s why Trittin and Wieland support a visa-free regime to reinforce the direct exchange between people. “Visa freedom would provide the young generation in particular with the opportunity to get to know a country for themselves that is predominantly presented in a negative light in the press,” says Wieland. 

For Trittin, a member of the Bundestag, the experiences of World War II create a sense of identity and bind the populations of both countries. In his opinion, “Russia’s greatness lay in reaching out to the Germans and working toward a good relationship after the traumatic experiences of Great Patriotic War.”

The discussion soon got caught up with the current debate: Nord Stream 2 and the EU’s alleged dependency on natural gas from Russia. When asked about this, Trittin explained: “There is no dependency. Russia’s dependency on revenues from selling the gas is far higher than our dependency on the natural gas deliveries.” There is an open market in Europe and the demand for natural gas is growing, so it’s up to the market to decide where the natural gas comes from. After all, it’s available “at more favorable prices than the fracking gas that Donald Trump wants to talk us into.” Trittin didn’t attribute Trump’s opposition to Nord Stream 2 to moral reasons, but rather described it as “the usual business practices used against a competitor.” 

According to Trittin, a further advantage of pipeline gas is the smaller carbon footprint. “The liquefaction of gas and its regasification lead to around 25 to 33 percent of the gas being wasted,” he explained. That’s nothing new to Wieland: “Natural gas is the cleanest fossil fuel. The energy transition cannot be achieved through renewable energies alone. We need natural gas from Russia. Nord Stream 2 expands capacities and contributes to a diversified gas supply.”