Given how much we’ve blogged about Russia’s most highly paid lobbyist, the rent-a-chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, it should come as no surprise that he has been one of the most vocal defenders of the Russian invasion of Georgia (though I do wonder if Gazprom’s brand new hire of the former prime minister of Finland will be put to work soon). What is frustrating about this is that the Russians have an important position that needs to be expressed, one that I am not without sympathy for, given the disproportionately aggressive demonizing of the country in the American press. Although carelessly executed with zero subtlety or diplomacy and unfortunate violence (and perhaps with the aim of creating a useful enmity for greater domestic powers), what Russia is pursuing in the Caucasus is squarely within their national interests – and that’s what countries do when they have power, pursue interests. But the Kremlin has failed to argue this position with any conviction, and in fact appears to doubt its own legitimacy. And that’s where Schroeder steps into the mix, ruining whatever chance Moscow had to win over the swing opinion. Like one of those radically annoying liberal grassroots groups, Schroeder excels in the unique of art of repelling even those who agree with him. His stumping of the war is clearly exacerbating the deep, deep rift in the German government (which of course paralyzes the united international response to Russia’s action) and puts the credibility of the SPD and Frank-Walter Steinmeier into troubled waters. So far, the reactions to Schroeder’s intervention on the invasion issue have been quite sharp:
Schroeder has been adamant in his insistence that Georgia was at fault and the chief protagonist in its recent conflict with Russia.In light of these comments, however, Schroeder, who developed close ties with Moscow during his seven years in office, has come under fire himself, with observers insisting he has a vested interest in EU-Russia relations.”More and more the sentiment is that the former chancellor has an imbalanced relationship from his previous position,” Christian Social Union foreign policy spokesman Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg told the Passauer Neuen Presse on Monday, Aug. 18. “Each of his declarations is an affront to Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.” (…)Eckart von Klaeden, foreign policy spokesman for the Christian Democratic Union parliamentary party faction, touched on this in his criticism of the former chancellor.”The recriminations were predictable,” he told 24-hour news channel n-tv on Monday. “Schroeder is the prominent voice of Moscow in Germany.”The free-market liberal FPD party secretary general Dirk Niebel told the station he thought Schroeder was willing to do anything his employer asked.”[Schroeder’s] one-sided attribution of blame is in line with the motto: He who pays the piper calls the tune,” Niebel said.