Putin's Pal

The Most Important Foreigner in Russia

Putin pays better than the Stasi. Source: DPA
Putin's best pal.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    A former Stasi agent is one of the most powerful businessmen in Russia.

  • Facts


    • In 1986 the East German Stasi sent Mr. Warnig to Düsseldorf to spy on West German companies.
    • In 1991 Mr. Warnig was sent by the Dresdner Bank to St. Petersburg, where he got to know Mr. Putin and the two of them became friends.
    • In 2006 Mr. Warning became CEO of the Nord Stream pipeline company. The chairman of the shareholders’ committee is former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder.
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Matthias Warnig doesn’t like talking to journalists. The managing director of Nord Stream, the international consortium controlling a gigantic pipeline pumping Russian gas to Germany along the Baltic Sea floor, would actually prefer to never see his name in the news.

But there is a photo, shot on April 28 this year in St. Petersburg. Shot in front of the grand Yusupov Palace at a late hour, it shows Russian President Vladimir Putin and former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder embracing. It was taken during the peak of the crisis in Ukraine, just a couple of weeks after the Russian annexation of Crimea. There was outrage in Berlin’s political circles.

On the left-hand edge of this photo is Mr. Warnig, the German host who no one in Germany knows. Smiling, his gaze rests on the two powerful men. Nord Stream had hosted a reception following a supervisory board meeting, as a belated celebration of the former chancellor’s 70th birthday.

Matthias Warnig, born in 1955 in the Lower Lusatia region southeast of Berlin, was 18 years old and a convinced Communist when he joined the East German secret police known as the Stasi. They allowed him to study at university in East Berlin and later sent him to Düsseldorf, where he was officially part of the East Germany’s trade mission, but his real job was industrial espionage. Shortly after he returned to Stasi headquarters in East Berlin in 1989, the Berlin Wall fell.

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