Back in December 2005 I mentioned this story:
Officials including Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov presided over the ceremonial welding of the first section of pipe at Babayevo in Russia’s Vologda region, where the Baltic link will diverge from an existing trunk pipeline and head for the coast.
Gazprom has teamed up with Germany’s E.on and Wintershall, part of BASF, to build the pipeline and is looking for a potential fourth partner, although it will retain a controlling stake of 51% in the project.
The onshore section of the pipeline will run 917 kilometres to the port of Vyborg, close to Russia’s second city of St Petersburg. The 1200 kilometre subsea link will terminate at Greifswald in Germany.
This was the Nord Stream pipeline, which – unlike several other proposed piplelines carrying Russian gas – actually got built and was commissioned in 2011. This pipeline was highly controversial, not least because of environmental objections but because it was seen by some former Soviet states – mainly Ukraine, but the Baltic states also raised concerns – as a means of isolating them politically from western Europe: if Ukraine could be bypassed for gas supplies, who cares what happens to it?
No sooner was the Nord Stream pipeline approved when the chap signing for the Germans, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, left office and became a director in the Nord Stream consortium. As I said at the time:
This stinks to high heaven. Unsurprisingly, the European press has raised barely a murmur over this. Can you imagine the noise that would be made if the US signed an historic deal to export Alaskan crude to China, and George W. Bush took the reigns of the pipeline consortium weeks after leaving office?
It is absolutely appalling that so little noise was made about Schroeder taking this job weeks after approving the project, but in the 13 years since I’ve realised these sort of ethics are par for the course in Germany, and nobody dares criticise. Remember: what’s good for Germany is good for the EU.
In late 2017, Gerhard Schroeder was elected chairman of Russian state-owned oil company Rosneft. Shroeder also remains on the board of Nord Stream, which has been pushing heavily for a second pipeline bringing Russian gas to Germany. In among all the squawking about Putin’s interference in the US election, supposedly killing people with Novichok in Salisbury, annexing Crimea, invading eastern Ukraine, and his forces shooting down civilian airliners nobody seems to be asking quite what a former German chancellor is doing working for him. Instead, we’re all supposed to be concerned that Trump is Putin’s puppet despite no evidence for this and an awful lot to the contrary.
Gerhard Schroeder was obviously employed by the Russians to wield political influence in Europe – particularly Germany – and they seem to be getting their money’s worth. I could barely imagine the outrage if Tony Blair was working for Putin’s government, engaged in back-door efforts to minimise the damage of sanctions and other responses to Russian aggression, but this is Germany so they get a free pass. Until now:
Bilateral Breakfast with NATO Secretary General in Brussels, Belgium… pic.twitter.com/l0EP3lzhCM
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 11, 2018
It was Trump’s mentioning the role of a former German chancellor – Schroeder – that pleased me the most. Everyone knows Germany is freeloading off the US for its defence needs, but few realise quite how embedded Germany is with Russia, the enemy they’re asking America’s help in defending against. If this were France people might not mind so much because France doesn’t self-righteously lecture everyone else and posit itself as the world’s arbiter on sound business practices, environmental legislation, and ethical governance. But Germany does all that, and then some, while engaging in the most brazen, self-serving hypocrisy. Fortunately, Trump’s remarks have been picked up in the US:
If you think Trump’s past business connections to Russian figures are troubling, you probably ought to be livid about how former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s has decided to become the chief lobbyist for Vladimir Putin in Europe.
The Wall Street Journal’s Holman Jenkins wrote earlier this year that Schroeder is exactly the kind of wealthy, well-connected, influential figure acting on behalf of Russia that U.S. sanctions are supposed to target:
Germany’s allies and its European Union partners, including the quietly frantic Poles and Balts, can’t quite refer to Mr. Schroeder as a Putin agent nestled in the heart of Germany’s political and business elite. His name doesn’t appear on any U.S. government list. Section 241 of last summer’s sanctions law required the U.S. Treasury to identify the ‘most significant senior foreign political figures and oligarchs’ behind the Putin regime. These descriptors would seem to apply to Mr. Schroeder but it remains diplomatically impermissible to say so.
Germany is broken, and beyond repair while Merkel remains in charge and the majority population are steeped in anti-Americanism (which long predated Trump). The best thing Trump could do is disband NATO and create a new defence alliance which countries could apply to join if they wished, and be screened for reliability. Germany – as an independent nation – would then have to stump up for its own defence or take its chances with Russia. This has gone on for too long.