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The Return of Rent-a-Chancellor

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder is back on the scene following a quiet summer, doing what he does best – working hard as the Kremlin’s most expensive public relations rep (the price tag for these services was of course a chair on the Nord Stream board).

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Germany’s former leader Gerhard Schroeder speaks during a presentation of the Russian edition of his book ‘Decisions. My life in politics’ in Moscow, September 8, 2007. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

Last May I called Schröder a “Rent-a-Chancellor” after he tap danced for the press corps in Helsinki, declaring Vladimir Putin to be a “model democrat,” and emphasizing the familiar and exhausted apologist argument that because of the tremendous and very real noble sacrifices made by Russia in WWII, their present autocracy and lawlessness must for some reason be welcomed and tolerated by the West (unfortunately this logic is still deployed with regularity). This week he has resumed his book tour (with a special guest in tow), using each and every media opportunity to chide Poland and the Czech Republic for being such troublesome neighbors, and encouraging Europe to ignore their concerns over security and energy and forge closer relations with Russia:

Speaking to press at a book-launch in Moscow on Saturday (8 September), he described Poland’s outstanding veto on a new EU-Russia treaty as “narrow-minded nationalism” and called the US missile scheme “politically dangerous.” “For the good of Europe it’s sometimes necessary to forget about the interests of individual [member] states,” he said. Poland imposed the veto in late 2006 in reaction to a Russian ban on Polish meat exports. “It is Germany’s responsibility…to persuade the United States to abandon these plans,” he added, on Washington’s push to build two rocket and radar bases in Poland and the Czech republic by 2012. Russian first deputy prime minister Dmitry Medvedev – also attending the book-launch – echoed the statement, saying it addresses “real worries” that Germany is no longer a “bridge” in east-west relations.

It doesn’t take an expert historian to understand the rather troubling implications of a former chancellor of Germany making such comments about Poland. In many ways, Schröder’s betrayal of Europe, comprising its energy security in exchange for personal profit from Gazprom, bears some similarity to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact – in that we once again have secret agreements between two governments that will have an enormous impact on the energy security of former Soviet states. If there is no longer any Cold War, then why must we think in terms of “spheres of influence”? Former Soviet states, whether they are new EU members or not, have earned their independence. A constructive and positive relationship with a stronger Russia should be possible without having to sacrifice the hard-earned sovereignty of these young democracies, as Schröder recommends that Europe do. Then again we are dealing with man who used his political position to set up the largest energy deal on the continent, only to accept a lucrative position for that Russian company after leaving office – a man who sees little difference between the U.S. political system and Islamofascism. No wonder Rep. Tom Lantos called him a “prostitute”. (hat tip for the video to Ray Drake)