Thursday, December 15, 2005

A new Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact?

I have always thought Schroeder was a creep, but this takes the cake:
Barely three weeks after his resignation on November 22 it turns out that Herr Schröder’s private pension scheme is a lucrative job on the Kremlin’s payroll. Last Friday the former German chancellor was appointed foreign policy advisor of Gazprom, the Russian state-owned oil and gas company, and chairman of the board of commissioners of NEGP, the Russian-controlled consortium that is building a gas pipeline from Siberia to Germany.
NEGP (North European Gas Pipeline Company) is a joint venture of Gazprom (for 51%) and two German companies, E.ON and BASF (each for 24.5%). The bilateral gas agreements between Germany and Russia were signed by Schröder last September 8, just 10 days before the German general election, which he lost. Schröder’s last visit to Putin dates from October, when he surprised some German journalists by mysteriously declaring: "Who says that this is going to be my last visit here?"
Do read the whole thing: the story, if at all possible, gets even worse!
In a plan reminiscent of the Stalin-Hitler pact to rip off Poland, Putin and Schröder agreed to build the NEGP pipeline on the Baltic seabed rather than through Poland, despite the far greater expense. The plan has infuriated Central European and Baltic countries. They realize that the Baltic Sea route allows Russia to cut off gas to Central and Eastern Europe while still delivering to Germany. The pipeline, which should be ready by 2010, will allow Moscow to demand the same price for oil and gas from its former satellites as from the Germans, thereby putting the squeeze on countries that, according to Putin, are gravitating too much toward the West.
Though I shouldn't be surprised, I still am. Where is the outrage? The agreement needs to be rescinded immediately and Schroeder must be reprimanded unequivocally and officially by the German government (fat chance!).
What I find particularly galling is that Germans, echoing the insufferable condescension they apply to the US, have been giving Italians constant grief for years about Berlusconi's (admittedly awful) antics. Well, two things come to mind:
  1. At least Berlusconi is transparent: what you see (an extreme caricature of all the most appalling traits attributed to Italians) is exactly what you get!
  2. And, more importantly, Berlusconi could never pull off anything as damaging to the geo-political situation of Eastern Europe as what Schroeder has done.
I wonder what else the esteemed Chancellor was up to while in office.

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