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Who Has the Longer Pipeline? The Eternal Rivalry of Joschka Fischer and Gerhard Schröder

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They used to be the double act at the top of the German government. But now former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and ex-Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer are on opposing sides -- as lobbyists for two competing pipeline projects.

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has his legs crossed and his arms behind his head. He has something he is dying to say about Joschka Fischer, who was German foreign minister under Schröder from 1998 to 2005.

"I doubt very much that it will be possible to run Nabucco profitably without gas from Iran," says Schröder, as a smug grin appears on his face. "But Joschka will undoubtedly resolve the conflict with Iran."

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Photo Gallery: A Tale of Two Pipelines

Schröder chuckles hoarsely. He clearly enjoys the subject. The Nabucco pipeline is supposed to transport natural gas from Central Asia to Europe; construction is slated to begin next year. Fischer is promoting the project on behalf of two energy companies.

Iran is a problem, Schröder says a second time. "Tell that to Joschka when you see him," he says with his famous wolfish grin.

Not Amusing

Fischer doesn't find the former chancellor's message the least bit amusing. Fischer is known for poking fun at other people, but he isn't very good at being the butt of someone else's jokes -- particularly Schröder's.

In a recent newspaper article about Afghanistan, Fischer wrote about "cumulative threats" and recommended that "all of the crises in this region need to be contained and perhaps even resolved: the Middle East, Iraq, the Gulf, Iran, Kashmir." All of the crises in the region? Fischer is nothing if not ambitious.

Fischer and Schröder are sparring once again. Although the subject of their spat has changed -- from political power to pipelines -- the contours are still more or less the same.

The former chancellor is working with the Russians, and his pipeline is called Nord Stream. The former foreign minister is working against the Russians, and his pipeline is called Nabucco. The two men are playing a modern-day version of the Great Game, the 19th-century struggle between Britain and Russia over control of Central Asia. This time around, the game involves the energy supply of the future and a finite resource: natural gas.

But when Fischer takes on Schröder, it isn't just a contest over who has the longest pipeline. In fact, it is only another chapter in the rivalry between two of the biggest egos in German politics, a contest that has been going on for more than a decade and has yet to be decided.

Success or Failure

The part about Iran is complete nonsense, Fischer says in response to Schröder's smug remarks. "Just think about what it will mean if Nabucco doesn't happen," he says. "The region, the geopolitical situation, Moscow!" He raises his arms into the air in a gesture of exasperation.

A Nabucco failure would not just be a geopolitical calamity. It wouldn't be great news for Fischer, either, who is being paid to promote the project by the German utility giant RWE and the Austrian oil and gas company OMV. He has a personal interest in Nabucco being a success, while Schröder has a personal interest in it being a failure.

The Nabucco project is intended to make the Germans less dependent on Russian gas. Russian energy giant Gazprom, which leads the Nord Stream consortium, has no interest in Germany becoming less dependent on Russian gas -- which is why Schröder, who is chairman of Nord Stream's shareholders' committee, is against Nabucco.

It is part of the ongoing rivalry between two men who endured seven years in government together. Now they are fighting over who controls the post-government period.

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1. Schröder Vs. Fischer or Germany Vs.Germany
Saeedi 02/16/2010
A wonderful article by Ralf Neukirch, thought provoking and interesting. If the underlying concern is the energy security of Germany, there is need to look at the things from several points of view. Firstly, why should it be objectionable for a high profile politician to get a paying job with a foreign entity. Schröder did not spring a surprise on Germany by joining Gazprom. Is the resentment, in a way, similar to the one felt by the American public when Jacoline Kennedy married Onasis? Moreover, if we are practicing economic patriotism without saying so openly, why should it be better for Germany to have energy supply dependence on Central Asia but not on Russia. After all, even during the worst years of Cold War, Kremlin never played with gas supplies. Thirdly, why the fixation with either/or scenario. Both Nord Stream and Nabucco are perfectly viable without one canceling the other. Are we talking of some 85 bcm of annual supply, taking together the combined volume of both the pipelines? Is it all that much? Fourthly, the bickering is taking place far away from the sources of gas supply. While there could be the satisfaction of causing economic damage to Russia by blocking its pipelines, the fact is the gas supplies are fast finding new destinations. China and Iran today, South Asia and LNG markets tomorrow.
2.
BTraven 02/19/2010
Zitat von SaeediA wonderful article by Ralf Neukirch, thought provoking and interesting. If the underlying concern is the energy security of Germany, there is need to look at the things from several points of view. Firstly, why should it be objectionable for a high profile politician to get a paying job with a foreign entity. Schröder did not spring a surprise on Germany by joining Gazprom. Is the resentment, in a way, similar to the one felt by the American public when Jacoline Kennedy married Onasis? Moreover, if we are practicing economic patriotism without saying so openly, why should it be better for Germany to have energy supply dependence on Central Asia but not on Russia. After all, even during the worst years of Cold War, Kremlin never played with gas supplies. Thirdly, why the fixation with either/or scenario. Both Nord Stream and Nabucco are perfectly viable without one canceling the other. Are we talking of some 85 bcm of annual supply, taking together the combined volume of both the pipelines? Is it all that much? Fourthly, the bickering is taking place far away from the sources of gas supply. While there could be the satisfaction of causing economic damage to Russia by blocking its pipelines, the fact is the gas supplies are fast finding new destinations. China and Iran today, South Asia and LNG markets tomorrow.
I only know that Americans did not approve the marriage but I do not think that she was mocked by the media like Schröder was by the German one. He was depicted as greedy as the bankers later, despite the fact that in the position he has not much money can be earned. It was partly his fault because some time before, as chancellor he had described Putin as “diamond pure (flawless) democrat”, so to come to the conclusion that he said it to get the job sounded quite logical.
3. s
chatterboss 02/20/2010
Zitat von BTravenI only know that Americans did not approve the marriage but I do not think that she was mocked by the media like Schröder was by the German one. He was depicted as greedy as the bankers later, despite the fact that in the position he has not much money can be earned. It was partly his fault because some time before, as chancellor he had described Putin as “diamond pure (flawless) democrat”, so to come to the conclusion that he said it to get the job sounded quite logical.
I find the Jackie Kennedy / Schroder comparison absurd and ignorant. There is no excuse of ignorance when one has access to the Internet. I did a quick search on the Net and and found this. http://euobserver.com/9/20533 Former German chancellor Gerhard Schroder is facing flak for taking a new job as board chairman of a Russian-German consortium building a direct gas pipeline between the two countries – a project he heavily promoted as chancellor . As chancellor, Mr Schroder in September symbolically attended the signing of the five billion dollar pipeline deal, along with Russian president Vladimir Putin. The Russian and former German leader, who enjoy a close personal relationship, had both heavily promoted the deal, and German politicians and media suspect Mr Schroder secured the top supervising job with Mr Putin’s help. The president of the German parliament, Norbert Lammert, described the career move as "instinct-less", adding that it seemed unthinkable for a former government chief not to see there was a "link between political engagement and personal economic interests".
4.
BTraven 02/23/2010
Zitat von chatterbossI find the Jackie Kennedy / Schroder comparison absurd and ignorant. There is no excuse of ignorance when one has access to the Internet. I did a quick search on the Net and and found this. http://euobserver.com/9/20533 Former German chancellor Gerhard Schroder is facing flak for taking a new job as board chairman of a Russian-German consortium building a direct gas pipeline between the two countries – a project he heavily promoted as chancellor . As chancellor, Mr Schroder in September symbolically attended the signing of the five billion dollar pipeline deal, along with Russian president Vladimir Putin. The Russian and former German leader, who enjoy a close personal relationship, had both heavily promoted the deal, and German politicians and media suspect Mr Schroder secured the top supervising job with Mr Putin’s help. The president of the German parliament, Norbert Lammert, described the career move as "instinct-less", adding that it seemed unthinkable for a former government chief not to see there was a "link between political engagement and personal economic interests".
I did not come up with the comparison; I just tried to answer his question Germans response to Schröder’s new job could be compared to the reaction Jaqueline Kennedy caused when her wedding with Onassis was announced. Personally, I find the article you mentioned a bit over the top. He was allowed to change the fronts since, as far as I know, no law that does not permit politicians to take an influential position like the one as board chairman in a big company. The pipeline will be financed by German and Russian companies; it will be no subsidized by the German state, so it is the decision of the companies what to do with their money. That the German companies which are involved have a monopoly on providing customers with gas is a different matter. The recession shows that big companies can hardly be influenced by politicians. E.on’s and BASF’s estimators have came to the conclusion that the project will be profitable therefore it will be built.
5.
Saeedi 02/24/2010
I alluded to Kennedy-Onasis marriage merely as a psychological trigger that puts into motion things that are basically driven by emotion. One should keep in view that economic dependence is a two-way street. If the Nord Stream would strengthen German dependence on Russian gas, it would also increase Russian dependence on Germany as a client. In the world where economic realities determine political agenda, there is no harm in continuing gas relations with Russia. In the past few years the troublemaker has been Ukraine, nor Russia. As someone living in CIS, I know that at individual level, Germans are the most respected Europeans in CIS.
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