Bad Taste?

Former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder, the man rightly credited with Germany's economic renaissance (whose reforms are incidentally in danger) has been a good friend of Russia's president Putin for quite some time. In fact, after leaving politics, Schröder got a job with Gazprom. Recently, Schröder celebrated his 70th birthday in St. Petersburg. Among the guests, none other than Vladimir Putin. Germany's political establishment and mainstream journalists are incensed.  For instance, 'Der Spiegel' writes in an editorial:

 

There's nothing you can do about your relatives, but you certainly have a choice when it comes to picking your friends. This sage wisdom also applies to Gerhard Schröder, the former German leader and confidant of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He himself can decide whom to embrace and with whom to celebrate his 70th birthday — after all, true friends stick together, even in the toughest of times. Normally, one would call this strength of character.

But when it comes to Schröder and Putin in the context of the Ukraine crisis, things are a little more complicated. Gerhard Schröder ought to know better. If the former German chancellor believes he can continue his friendship as if nothing has happened, it's a mistake. Schröder's own center-left Social Democratic Party is currently the junior coalition partner in Chancellor Angela Merkel's government, which is frantically trying to prevent his friend Vladimir from carrying out the policies of a power-drunk hegemon in Eastern Europe. In difficult times like these, a former German leader should, at least publicly, keep a safe distance from Putin.

Dialogue, including with Putin, must continue, and the West must take Moscow's interests into account. It is also perfectly fine for Gerhard Schröder to be friends with Putin — that's his business. But hugging and chumming it up at a party in St. Petersburg against the backdrop of current events is simply tasteless. The event, held in honor of Schröder's 70th birthday on Monday night, was hosted by Nord Stream AG, a subsidiary of Russian gas monopolist Gazprom. The former chancellor is the chairman of the shareholders' committee of the company, which operates a gas pipeline that directly links Russia and Germany.

 

(emphasis added)

 

Schr+Âder and Putin-2

Old pals: Ex-chancellor Gerhard Schröder and Vladimir Putin

(Photo via DPA)

 

Readers may recall that Gerhard Schröder wisely refused to let his country join the 'coalition of the willing' that stumbled into the Iraq war calamity. The Iraq war represented precisely what John Kerry accused Putin to have engaged in with respect to the Crimea. Kerry said verbatim:

 

“You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pretext.”

 

Surely this describes the Iraq incursion far better than the annexation of the Crimea.  Russia's military didn't need to 'invade' – it was already there. A single person reportedly died in the course of the Crimea's sudden ownership change (in Iraq, up to 100 people and sometimes more still die in violence every day, years after the war's conclusion). No-one can argue that the annexation of the Crimea is beyond criticism – but what did the Western allies expect Russia's government to do? Give up the Sevastopol port and its access to the Black Sea? That was always a pipe dream. As an aside, even if there are lingering doubts about the event, a referendum was held and we personally witnessed a German TV reporter failing to find even a single person in Simferopol unhappy with its outcome (admittedly this is only meager anecdotal evidence, but it seems highly likely that a large majority of the inhabitants of the Crimea was in fact in favor of rejoining Russia).

As Micah Zenko of the Council of Foreign Relations remarked on Twitter with regard to Kerry's statement:

 

“US politicians and pundits newfound commitment to state sovereignty and non-interference in other country's affairs is admirable.”

 

Schröder's Friendship with Putin May Come in Useful

The editorial in 'Der Spiegel' continues:

 

Putin violated international law by annexing Crimea. People have died in the occupied cities of eastern Ukraine and representatives of international organizations have been detained. Fears of war are growing and Schröder's friend Putin seems to be pleased by much of what is happening. Germany and the West have reacted by applying mild sanctions to Putin's entourage.

No one is Berlin is interested in a serious conflict with Putin. The hope is that Moscow will finally come round and pursue politics of de-escalation and true dialogue, instead of engaging in a power play reminiscent of the darkest hours of the Cold War. That would be a reasonable, defensive line, that should be used to prevent hardliners both in the East and the West from further exacerbating the situation.

In times like this, a former chancellor should support his country's foreign policy and not demonstratively seek to thwart it, or make a mockery of it, as Schröder has done.”

 

(emphasis added)

Perhaps Germany's government and the EU should have thought about that before they actively destabilized the Yanukovich government. It may well be that the Ukrainian people would have eventually chased Yanukovich out on their own, but clearly the entire affair was orchestrated or at the very least strongly pushed toward its conclusion with the help of the EU and the US (let us not forget the famous Nuland/Pyatt telephone conversation). As unsavory as Yanukovich undoubtedly was, the conflict was none of the West's business. As an aside, it remains to be seen what will ultimately follow in Yanukovich's wake once the new government has been elected. The Ukraine's experiences with governments led by western Ukrainian parties haven't been one iota better to date – the country has been ruled by kleptocrats since day one of its independence.

 

Former chief of the CIA's Bin Laden until, Michael Scheuer, who, n.b., is definitely not a big fan of Putin, had this to say:

 

“Like the terminal adolescents they are, the leaders of both parties in the United States and their counterparts in NATO and the EU cannot bring themselves to admit the clear and simple fact that they are responsible for the festering problem in Ukraine.

They have encountered in Putin a man who is unsavory and no hero but one who is a thorough-going nationalist who will not roll over and play dead and abandon his country’s security interests because the intervention-addicted Western democracy mongers demand he do so. Western pride, historical ignorance, and hubris makes admitting a mistake impossible, so we continue meandering toward war.”

 

The pictures of the deteriorating situation in the eastern Ukraine are indeed stoking fears of war in Europe, as Der Spiegel reports elsewhere.

It should be kept in mind that no-one knows at this point if Schröder hasn't been using the opportunity to talk Putin into becoming a bit more proactive with respect to defusing the situation in the eastern Ukraine. After all, a personal friendship can really come in useful on such occasions.

We can make an educated guess though. Schröder is no doubt aware of the dangers the situation harbors. Given his well-known anti-war and anti-interventionism stance, it would be quite surprising if he didn't use his unique access to Putin to attempt to mediate.

The latest news at the time of writing indicate that the seven OSCE monitors that were recently taken captive in Slavyansk may soon be released without  preconditions. It could well be that Schröder had a hand in this development, so perhaps it was for the best that he didn't 'keep a safe distance from Putin'.

 

 

 

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8 Responses to “Germany Scandalized by Schröder Partying with Putin”

  • I would read Rothbard’s Betrayal of the American Right, before I bought the official line BK. Rothbard paints a picture of the military industrial complex and those that promote war, creating the cold war after WWII, by constantly threatening the Soviet Union. The only true evidence I have seen that Russia has its eyes on the Ukraine is in the western newspapers. Crimea is another matter.

    It is pretty apparent the west wants Ukraine in NATO. Think Russia wants NATO on its borders. Think they want the western powers taking control of their main warm water naval port? Sounds like the west has a desire to threaten war against Russia. It would clearly keep the money flowing to the connected so they can continue to send their kids to Harvard and Yale.

    Credit and minerals are what makes the world rotate. The same people that float the credit build the arms. That is a nice game, give us some money so we can build some arms we can sell and put the bill on the people of the country. In the end, maybe we get an in into the biggest pile of undeveloped minerals on Earth. Ever entered your mind that the interests of those that run this entity called the United States have their interests and not our at heart?

      • BK:

        Mann,

        There are speculation and pipe dreams about “military complex”, “they want…”, and such. And there are facts, the actions that occurred.

        The facts are the following: NATO rejected all Ukraine pledges to join in any capacity. There have been no NATO presence on Ukraine soil, and very little cooperation. Ukraine officially declared no-block status.

        NATO cooperation with Russia has been, until very recently, on much higher lever. That including major military contracts, and NATO base on Russian soil. Which is more than funny, as all you guys, for some unfathomable reason, keep pledging Russia fears “NATO presence” above all.

        As I mentioned, there was no NATO presence on Ukrainian soil. There was, however, Russian presence – a major military base in Crimea. That ended in Russian occupation and annexation of Crimea. To the contrary, Ukraine have not experienced any hostile acts from NATO.

        It is way, way above funny how you pay so much attention to some “experts” blabbing, and then state that a major real hostile act, an occupation and annexation of sovereign territory is “another matter”

  • BK:

    Good day, Pater!

    My, my! I am at complete loss here. First you criticize the US for whatever they did in Iraq, then you write this: “but what did the Western allies expect Russia’s government to do? Give up the Sevastopol port and its access to the Black Sea? That was always a pipe dream.” So, Russia is allowed (or at least should be understood) to annex a foreign territory to pursue “19 century” imperialistic plans, and at the same time the US are not allowed to even try to meddle somewhere to pursue their own plans? Or it is “19 century” for everyone now?

    If it is for everyone, then we should criticize the US for not meddling enough! Just spend a little time to study 19 century history, and the level of “meddling” back then.

    I have to repeat, you are very mistaken about “engineered” removal of Yanukovich by the West. The western politicians played their “western” roles very reluctantly during the stand-off, and fought for the compromise until the very end, when it was obvious for everyone that the compromise is impossible. I think they just hated the whole situation and, most of all, their decades-long empty promises of nothing to many generations of Ukrainian leaders and people. Promises of nothing, because “association” is really nothing. I feel their dark desire was that Ukraine never existed, so that all these problems would go away.

    Yanukovich crumbled because really the only reason why he was tolerated was ungrounded hope he would sign something with the EU. There was no chance for him to remain at power for long after the failure. And all his treatment of the demonstrations (I just have to remind you those demonstration were very, very peaceful at first) was his idiotic repetition of future elections where he would not stood a chance without brute force.

    All that failed, and he had to run, as he was not supported even by his own party (remember that failed gathering in Kharkov??). So, now it is “separatists” – unknown “masked man”, bearded Russian citizens, and former Russian officers who “took Ukrainian citizenship”. And a perspective of full-scale war…. Again the West just hates the situation, and, most of all, the fact that they cannot simply abandon it and walk away, pretending that Ukraine does not exist. And, very unfortunately, it would be up to Ukraine, and to Ukraine only to fight to survive the Russian aggression. Very tough, but not hopeless – much smaller Chechnya fought quite successfully, and now it is de-facto independent, and Russia has been paying it contributions.

    Please, listen less to your “Russian friends” about Russia “loosing” Sevastopol because of Ukraine signing “association” with the EU. It is simply not related. Russia just saw a once-in-lifetime chance to grab a foreign territory during the short period of Ukraine weakness. That was their wettest revanchist dream, and it did come true for now.

    As regarding Schroeder, it is just back to good old times when Germany and Russia used to divide Europe between themselves. Let’s hope this time it would play out better )))

    • No6:

      I don’t think it is quite right to say Pater is OK with states invading and annexing territories. Anyone familiar with his writings would know that Pater has a rather anti-state bias.
      I think his point is that given the state paradigm that currently exists no one could have expected Russia to behave in any other way regarding its naval port.

      • BK:

        May be the case.

        Then, as I mentioned, it would be “19 century again for everybody”. In this case we all, as the US patriots, should be really concerned that it is being undermined in pursuing its own strategic interests. Because, according to 19 century textbook, the US goal would be to get Russia out of those territories, subdue and weaken it, and then, ideally, to split it in several parts, as Russia is clearly an aspiring empire hostile to the US.

        Unless Pater belongs to small but vocal group of “19 century players” that believe that the US and Russia should negotiate “spheres of influence” and decide peacefully who should get which weak states. Sounds promising, but sorry, not quite possible according to the same old 19 century playbooks. An old dominating empire cannot befriend an aspiring one….

        Anyways, my initial thought, based on all previous Pater posts regarding other countries, was that he deeply despises all “19 century” games, and thus should strongly condemn all players, especially the most aggressive ones.

  • jimmyjames:

    Recently, Schröder celebrated his 70th birthday in St. Petersburg. Among the guests, none other than Vladimir Putin. Germany’s political establishment and mainstream journalists are incensed

    **********

    Geezzuzz .. another bitch slap for the west .. how will we ever get our friggen war going when we keep hitting these kinds of snags .. in spite of having our best a brightest over there stirring up the pot ..

  • Vangel:

    It seems to me that Schröder reflects the sentiment of most Germans. Few want a war in support of right wing extremists who overthrew an elected leader by killing their own supporters in order to spark an uprising. With access to the internet many young Germans are figuring out just how used their governments have been by the US over the past few decades. Once Putin does his energy deal with China expect a great deal of anger among EU consumers and workers.

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