Schröder, known for close business and personal ties with Russia, called Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili a gambler in an interview with German newsmagazine Der Spiegel and said he sparked the conflict by marching troops into South Ossetia. The former chancellor said he thought Georgia’s chances of joining NATO had moved “even further into the distance” following the fighting with Russian forces.
Critics on Monday noted that Schröder took a job with Russian energy giant Gazprom immediately after leaving office. The former chancellor now oversees the Russian-German operating company that is building a new Baltic Sea pipeline for natural gas, set to link western Siberia and Germany in 2010. Gazprom has a 51 percent stake in the more than €4 billion project.
“I get more and more of a feeling that the former chancellor has a faulty relationship with his former position. As soon as Russia comes into play, his judgment becomes disproportionate and unreasonable in the highest degree,” conservative parliamentarian Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg told German newspaper Passauer Neue Presse.
Guttenberg, who heads the foreign policy committee for the Christian Social Union (CSU) of Bavaria, told the paper that Schröder should also consider himself a gambler for contradicting German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who belongs to Schröder’s centre-left Social Democratic Party.
“Schröder has become Moscow’s most prominent voice in Germany,” Eckard von Klaeden, foreign policy spokesman for the CSU’s national sister party, the Christian Democrats (CDU), told the newspaper.
Schröder said in his interview that Russia was not pursuing an annexation policy in the Caucasus, adding that he saw no reason for the concept of “strategic partnership” between Germany and Russia to be affected by the war.
“I reject the idea of demonizing Russia. I consider Russia as a part of Europe,” he said.
CSU chief Erwin Huber said Schröder’s comments did a disservice to human rights and weakened the position of the West.
“The strategic partnership between Germany and Russia requires a thorough review. It still has its roots in the time of the red-green alliance,” Huber said, referring to Schröder’s coalition of Social Democrats and the Green party. That government was replaced by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s current coalition of Christian Democrats and Social Democrats.
Huber said Russia today is presenting itself as a military power that does not recognize the sovereignty of neighboring states.
“Europe can’t accept that without acting. The Russians must be told: ‘You cannot act like this,'” he said.