Germany Is Rekindling Its Bromance With Russia
Angela Merkel is still chancellor of Germany, but the influence of her predecessor is on the rise. Call it Schröderism: the idea that Germany is destined to have a “special relationship” with Russia and must do everything it can to maintain it — regardless of Russian actions. As German chancellor from 1998 to 2005, Gerhard Schröder seemed prepared to do anything to develop a harmonious partnership between Berlin and Moscow and a personal friendship with Vladimir Putin, whether it involved describing him publicly as a “flawless democrat” or playing down his brutal war in Chechnya.
Schröder personally profited from this close relationship with Putin. Shortly before he left office, Germany and Russia signed an agreement to build Nord Stream, a gas pipeline that runs from Russia through the Baltic Sea to Germany. Just two months later, he was appointed chairman of the consortium constructing the pipeline, in which the state-owned gas corporation Gazprom holds a majority stake.
But Germany’s relationship with Russia caused particular concern in Poland and the Baltic states, where it evoked memories of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and the wartime occupation. Many in central and eastern Europe feared that, by increasing Europe’s dependence on Russian gas, Germany was increasing their vulnerability to Russian pressure. The United States, for its, part, was concerned that Schröderism was a threat to Western unity.