Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Germany's national interest--and Schroeder's personal interests

The Washington Post is upset that former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has decided to work for GAZPROM, the Russian state owned gas firm, to oversee the new Baltic pipeline project.

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.

Spot on! The WaPo's Russia-bashing is starting to get seriously tedious.
I don't particularly care for either Putin or Schroeder. At the same time, energy security is a top priority for any industrialized country. Ensuring that the lights are on means having to make hard choices.

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.
I think part of the Post's frustration and a continuing unresolved issue is the fact that there has been no sustained de-Communization in either eastern Germany or Russia, so that secret police functionaries of the old regime remain in positions of responsiblity in both countries. The Cold War victory of the West was not followed by sustained de-Communization. This is also why you have the revival of pro-Stalin sentiment in Russia. The job was left incomplete and this is the price we now pay.
Thanks for the comments so far. I find it interesting that the Post's "blogger function" that supposedly links to all blogs that reference the editorial doesn't contain a link for this post at all.
It definitely helps to register at Technorati.com and send them an 'update ping' any time you want their search engine to catalog your blog promptly. It looks like the last time they crawled WashingtonRealist was Sunday -- the last two posts don't show up.
Thanks, Greg--appreciate it.
Dresdner Bank has now bought 1/3 of Gazprombank, the so-called "treasury" of the state-controlled gas and now oil complex. What is happening is an intertwining of Russian assets and German capital which benefit elites in both countries. Let's also not forget that Deutsche Bank advised Gazprom to pursue a policy of state consolidation of the oil and gas sector.
My apologies--the blog is now linked to the editorial site but unlike others where an excerpt is provided all that is noted is the words "Washington Post". I do not know if this is something done by Technorati or by deliberate design. But thanks again, Greg, for the technical advice and apologies for insinuating that Washington Realist was being denied access to the public square.
A word of caution on Technorati in the way of expectations management. It's far from reliable. There's no predicting whether a link gets picked up and displayed in their system. I've had lots of sites, even big name ones like Kevin Drum's Political Animal, link to my or other sites and not appear in the link listings.

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.
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