Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Germany's national interest--and Schroeder's personal interests
I think that it is perfectly correct for the Post or any other news outlet to raise questions about the propriety of Germany's immediate past chancellor taking such a high profile business position weeks after stepping down from office. Germans also have aright to know whether Herr Schroeder used his official position improperly to move this project forward.
But the Post's vision for how Germany should conduct its relations with Russia seems divorced from a sober assessment of Germany's national interests, apart from any appearance of impropriety on the part of the former chancellor.
The Post's editors don't like the Baltic pipeline project because "The Baltic Sea pipeline could allow Russia, a country that has made political use of its energy resources, to cut off gas to Central Europe and the Baltic states while still delivering gas to Germany." Why is this Germany's problem? News flash. All energy producing countries use their energy resources for political purposes (e.g. Venezuela shipping low cost heating oil to the United States). Indeed, I remain amazed at the incomprehensibility of the proposition that Russia should have to sell energy (usually at below market rates) to countries who pursue policies it perceives as hostile to its interets.
And I've been told by some senior Germans that they have grown a bit concerned about having vital energy resources continue to arrive by land through countries willing to play chicken with Russia concerning the energy supply. President Yushchenko of Ukraine got an earful when he visited Berlin earlier this year. The Germans, simply put, no longer want to have other states to their east to have a hand on the taps that affect whether they get heat and power in the winter--whether Ukrainians, Belarussians, Poles or Balts. The pipeline is a higher cost but I've been told it is viewed as a premium for energy security.
Come to think of it, wasn't this the rationale behind the Baku-Ceyhan line, not wanting to have a vital pipeline carrying oil to Western markets cross Russia because of legitimate fears of Russia's ability to interfere with that supply?
We can fault Schroeder's decision (hints of Pat Choate and his Agents of Influence but let's separate Schroeder's personal interests from Germany's national ones.
I also think that this deal helps to explode any remaining credibility to the community of democracies idea, that democracies align with each other because of values. Germany shares democratic values with central Europe but it also has energy needs that propel its relationship with Russia, just like our energy needs have forged our close ties to the House of Saud.
But it's the only system out there so far, so the WaPoCo is using it for their online properties. I expect Google and Yahoo, as they expand their blog search features, will eventually move into Technorati's territory (or take it over) unless Technorati keeps up with the explosive growth of the blogosphere.