Pipeline Politics: Ex German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder Nominated to Board of Russian State-Owned Gas Company

HANOVER, GERMANY - APRIL 11: Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and the German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder (L) poses at the opening of the Hanover Fair 2005, a trade fair for industrial technology April 11, 2005 at the Trade Fair Center in Hanover, Germany. (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)
Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

Gerhard Schröder, the former left-leaning Chancellor of Germany, has been nominated to the board of a Russian state-owned gas company.

The move to nominate Schröder to the board of Gazprom has prompted mass outcry amongst German politicians, while the country as a whole has been slammed as of late for its overreliance on Russian natural gas.

According to a report from POLITICO, Gerhard Schröder was on an official list of candidates for the board of directors that was published on Friday. Names for the board will be voted on during a shareholders’ meeting in St. Petersburg that is slated for June.

If elected, this will be far from the first senior position on a Russian energy company the ex-chancellor has held, with German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle reporting that he is also serving as chairman of the supervisory board of Russian state energy company Rosneft, chairman of the shareholders’ committee for Nord Stream AG, and as president of the board of directors at Nord Stream 2 AG.

Of particular note is the fact that Schröder was the one to initially approve the Nord Stream 2 project during his time as Germany’s Chancellor, a project that has since come under heavy fire for making Germany too reliant on Russian energy.

The ex-German Chancellor is also well known for being very good friends with Russian President Vladimir Putin and has more recently taken to social media to decry the boycotts of the Beijing Olympics over the numerous human rights abuses committed by the communist regime in Hong Kong, Tibet, and Xinjiang.

“Boycott the Olympics in Beijing? No!” Schröder wrote online. “Anyone who wants to put pressure on China with boycott demands and moralizing foreign policy is playing a dangerous game.”

“Because China is not only our most important sales market, but we also need China in all central questions of global politics,” he continued. “And we will only achieve success here through dialogue, not through threats.”

News of the nomination has prompted outrage across Germany, with many politicians calling for action to be taken regarding the potential appointment.

“It’s time to start thinking about withdrawing Gerhard Schröder’s [perks as] a former chancellor,” wrote Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann MdB, of the Free Democratic Party. “He harms the country he is meant to serve [and] willingly accepts more than good pay for it from an autocrat. Appanage from the German state is not compatible with this.”

“A former SPD chancellor cannot cash in on Gazprom and the German state at the same time,” said the Deputy Secretary-General of the Christian Social Union, Florian Hahn. “Anyone withering away to become a stirrer for Putin’s interests harms Germany and is unworthy of his office!”

“Gerhard Schröder gets a promotion from his bosom friend Putin,” said another CSU politician, Stefan Müller. “Cross-party, we should talk about withdrawing his office as former chancellor.”

“He harms Germany,” Müller concluded.

On top of the domestic outrage, others outside Germany have accused the country as a whole of being overreliant on Russian gas, with the mayor of Kyiv calling out the “political control” Putin has over the EU member state.

“The billions that Russia has invested to buy German corporations, ex-politicians and lobbyists have paid off for Vladimir Putin,” said Mayor Vitali Klitschko, a former heavyweight boxing champion turned Ukrainian politician.

“Germany should ensure that lobbyists, such as former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, are prohibited by law from continuing to work for the Russian regime,” he continued. “These would be sanctions that would really hurt many!”

Klitschko’s comments echo those made by former US President Donald Trump, who called out Germany’s reliance on Russia while he was in office in 2018.

“It is very sad when Germany makes a massive oil and gas deal with Russia, where we’re supposed to be guarding against Russia, and Germany goes and pays out billions and billions of dollars a year to Russia,” the former president said during a diplomatic breakfast. “We’re protecting Germany, we’re protecting France, we’re protecting all of these countries.”

“The former Chancellor of Germany (Schröder) is the head of the pipeline company that’s supplying the gas… Germany is totally controlled by Russia — they will be getting 60-70 per cent of their energy and a new pipeline… I think it’s not [appropriate] and it’s a very bad thing for NATO,” Trump continued.

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