Sunday, March 09, 2014

Gerhard Schröder, Russia and the Crimea

I'll always respect former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder for defying Dick Cheney and George Bush on the Iraq War.

But the sad fact is that Schröder has become a shameless corporate 'ho'. And the corporate owner is Russian. Not long after his Chancellorship ended in 2005, he accepted a job with a company 51% controlled by the Russian state-owned energy firm Gazprom, North Nord Stream. He serves as Chairman of the Shareholders’ Committee for the company, which is in charge of the Russian-German gas pipeline that he promoted as Chancellor. (Dietmar Student und Thomas Werres, Die Gerhard-Schröder-AG Manager Magazin Online 09.04.2010; Alexander Schwabe und Carsten Volkery, Neuer Job: Schröder verrubelt seinen Ruf Spiegel Online 12.12.2005)

Gerhard Schröder, German bitnessman

North Nord Steam's website as of this writing describes the project this way:

The two 1,224-kilometre offshore pipelines are the most direct connection between the vast gas reserves in Russia and energy markets in the European Union. Combined, the twin pipelines have the capacity to transport a combined total of 55 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas a year to businesses and households in the EU for at least 50 years. As the project strengthens the EU energy market and reinforces security of supply, the project has been designated as being of "European interest" by the European Parliament and Council.
We're all too familiar in the Untied States with this kind of close arrangement between the corporate world and corporate-friendly politicians who cash in after leaving office. Student and Werres writes, seemingly admiringly, "Gerhard Schröder gilt als Modellfall für eine zweite Karriere eines deutschen Ex-Regierungschefs. Er ist der erste, der sich in vielen Rollen, die die Wirtschaft anbietet, bewährt und dabei ein ansehnliches Auskommen findet: als Aufsichtsrat, Berater, Türöffner, Konfliktlöser - und als gut bezahlter Redner sowieso." ("Gerhard Schröder stands as a model case for a second career for a German former head of government. He is the first who is proving himself in many roles that business offers and thereby finds a handsome living: as board member, adviser, door-opener, conflict revolver - and as a well-paid speaker.") In their 2010 article, they give an estimate of his annual income at €1.5 million ($2 million or more).

A model case of a corporate 'ho', in other words.

So it's hard not to wonder whether he more-or-less straightforward defense of his friend Vladimir Putin has more to do with which side his bread is currently buttered than the reflections of a retired statesman. In and interview with Die Zeit, he defends Russia's actions in the Crimea. (Ludwig Greven, Putin verstehen mit Gerhard Schröder Zeit Online 09.03.2014; Spiegel Online provides fuller quotes: Ukraine-Konflikt: Schröder macht EU für Krim-Krise mitverantwortlich 09.03.2014)

Schröder expresses doubt that Putin used the right means to achieve his goals in the Crimea. He noted that his government's participation in the Kosovo War of 2009 was "formally" a violation of international law, as he admitted Putin's action in the Crimea are.

He just confessed to having committed a war crime, in other words.

That surprises me far more than his defense of his friend and indirect financial benefactor Putin. It even raises questions about his motivations in opposing the Iraq War.

And just a few days ago, there were reports that Schröder had been offered a job at another Russian oil company, Rosneft. But he denied the report. (Schröder: Kein Spitzenjob bei russischem Öl-Riesen T-online 04.03.2014)

On the Ukraine crisis, Leslie Gelb has some practical-minded comments on How To Solve the Ukraine Daily Beast 03/09/2014. Fred Kaplan also has another piece on it, False Warnings Slate 03/07/2014.

Schröder several weeks ago criticized the EU's actions in promoting the opposition in Ukraine. Ukraine-Konflikt: Ex-Kanzler Schröder schlägt Uno als Vermittler vor Spiegel Online 19.02.2014. I do have the impression that the US and the EU were reckless in supporting a dubious opposition movement against a corrupt and repressive but legally elected government in Ukraine. So Schröder isn't necessarily wrong on all he says about the Ukraine crisis. But we do have to consider the source and his economic interests.

Schröder's red-green government introduced numerous neoliberal "reforms," most notoriously the Hartz IV reforms that had a significant role in reducing job security and holding down income for German workers. So his advocacy for the Russian-German gas pipeline wasn't the only service he did to the corporate world that is now rewarding him so well.

In what seems an ironic moment in the circumstances, Schröder reportedly warned current French Socialist President François Hollande in a recent visit not to follow his example in pressing neoliberal "reforms," because they cost him his Chancellorship in the German election of 2005. ( Michaela Wiegel, Gerhard Schröder in Paris: Nur nicht über Putin sprechen FAZ 03.03.2014)

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