Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Germany, Schroeder, and Russia

Toward the end of 1998, Gerhard Schroeder of the SPD Party....was elected chancellor of Germany.  Most Germans at the time.....believed that the Helmet Kohl era had simply run out of steam and it was time to bring in a SPD guy (Kohl being a CDU guy).

The best description that an American could give of Schroeder was that he looked and acted "presidential".  He gave four-star speeches, and he had major positive out of his era.....being the reform of the welfare system of Germany.  Beyond that?  At the end of four election came up around the time of the 9-11 and the Iraq War.  After four years of Schroeder....the pre-polling results were Schroeder barely carrying thirty-percent of the public vote.  It was hard to find a German who really talked really positive over Schroeder's four-year period.

Schroeder used the US confrontation to his advantage......talked up a storm about the US being wrong, and barely ran any campaign dealing with German problems.  In the end.....on election night.....Germans sat there shocked.  Schroeder took 38.5-percent of the vote, and just barely edged out the CDU/CSU candidate.

Within a week after the 2nd election....a public poll was conducted, with a majority of the nation frustrated and against Schroeder.  It's hard to imagine that many Germans saying something in a public poll, but could not defeat him in an actual election.

Roughly two-and-a-half years later....because of a state election and huge defeat for the SPD.....Schroeder as Chancellor.....had to call for a new election.  A couple of months later....the election was held and the CDU/CSU combination beat the SPD by ONE percentage point.  The journalists sat there in shock because there was no way to get a partnership and run the Bundestag with the CDU/CSU combo and the FDP (you need fifty percent or more to claim the 'win', and between them.....they could only muster forty-five percent.

What Germans witnessed on election night was Schroeder of the SPD doing a half-way victory dance because he hinted strongly that the SPD would never partner with the CDU, and the ONE percent win meant nothing because the SPD would then partner up.  Of course, journalists hinted that the same numbers would come of a SPD and Green match-up.

Schroeder then piped up that it would include the FDP guys.....thus giving the SPD and Schroeder a chance for four more years.

Rarely have I been intrigued with German politics more than the next sixty seconds after that comment.  In this group of the heads of the various political parties....sat FDP's Guido Westerwelle.  Usually....Westerwelle is the guy that chats mostly over business situations, the economy, and general law.  In this event.....he stepped right up to the plate and said in a pretty direct fashion that 'hell would freeze over before the FDP would partner up in such a situation'.

By the next kinda got around that various SPD members were meeting quietly and discussing the fact that Schroeder was 'poison' for the party, and needed to be pushed out.  He was drawing a fair amount of negative media coverage.  Within two weeks.....he'd been pushed out.

At that point, an odd thing occurred with Schroeder, as a private citizen.....he ended up with GAZPROM.....a major Russian natural gas company.  The SPD folks spent an entire evening explaining this, and how it was no fault of their own that he was doing this.

So, years have passed now since that 2005 episode.  This past week.....a dinner party was organized in St Petersburg, Russia for Schroeder.  Putin himself arrived in a limo, and there's a pretty big and clear shot of the two hugging outside of the restaurant.  Last night, here were the CDU spokesman and the SPD spokesman.....fairly direct in that Schroeder is embarrassing no one but himself, and it's a terrible image of the former Chancellor hugging up to Putin while Ukraine is in a tight spot.

My general gut feeling is that thirty to forty years ago......a couple of people of influence came into Schroeder's life, and helped in some ways to guide him to be friendly to the Soviets and later....the Russians.  Schroeder probably isn't that bright.....never considered how he fell into these circumstances, and is fairly naive about politics and world affairs.  So, this dinner deal.....with Putin in attendance.....really didn't come onto his reality screen and there were no red flags as far as he saw them.

For history purposes.....I suspect in fifty years that Schroeder will be seen as a Chancellor with limited accomplishments, and that he used the GASPROM position to create some wealth.....later used by some foundation for German election and political purposes....mostly to get a pro-Russia guy back into the Chancellorship.

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