Monday, February 21, 2022

From a few weeks ago, "Germany's former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder to join Gazprom board"


Schröder, who was the head of the Social Democrat-led German government from 1998 to 2005, has attracted controversy since leaving office due to his close ties to Russia, including a personal friendship with President Vladimir Putin.

Schröder was widely criticized for calling the Russian president a "flawless democrat."


His other posts include acting as chairman of the shareholders' committee for Nord Stream AG and president of the board of directors at Nord Stream 2 AG. Both positions involve gas pipelines that connect Russia and Germany and are at the center of an intense debate on the international stage.


They worry that they could be used to pressure European governments to back down should Moscow attempt an invasion of Ukraine.


Ten days before the German election in 2005, as the race between Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and his challenger Angela Merkel was reaching its climax, the chancellor decided to hold a meeting with a man who had become a good friend: Russian President Vladimir Putin.


He was no longer sure he was going to win, and he had some urgent business to sort out that he did not trust his successor to get done.

An idea that had first been floated in the mid-1990s was therefore finally sealed on September 8, 2005, with the joint declaration of intent signed by the German and Russian heads of government. There would be a new natural gas pipeline running directly from Russia to Germany through the Baltic Sea


Schröder promptly lost the election, and a few days after his chancellorship ended, he joined the board of directors of the pipeline's new operating company, which would soon be renamed Nord Stream.


So it was left to Schröder's successor to oversee the completion of the project, though the ensuing diplomatic strife appears to have been worth it, because it was under Merkel's tenure that the project was doubled in 2015, with the beginning of Nord Stream 2.


In the early 2000s...German politicians had developed a contrary, more liberal theory — that more economic interdependence between Russia and western Europe would create peace in the long run. As trade increased, democracy would inevitably prevail.

More from July:

At the flip of a switch, Russia’s state-owned Gazprom can send gas to Germany at a lower cost with less hassle.


German industry, which is in sore need of cheap, reliable energy sources, loves it.

Next year, Germany will switch off its last nuclear reactor and it plans to ban coal-fired electricity production by 2038. Though the share of renewable energy in Germany's electricity mix is growing, it’s still less than 50 percent of the total. That means the country has a big electricity hole to fill and needs natural gas, which pollutes less than coal, to do it. (Gas is also used to heat 45 percent of German households.)  


So is Germany willing to sell Ukraine down the river and strain relations with key allies from Warsaw to Washington in order to secure access to cheap gas? In a word, yes. 

And now:

Germany on Tuesday halted the certification of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline designed to bring natural gas from Russia directly to Europe, after Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized breakaway parts of eastern Ukraine and ordered troops into the region.