Russia-Georgia Conflict Ex-Chancellor Schröder Blasts the West

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has said it's no wonder Russia reacted as it did given its encirclement by the West. He said Georgia crossed a "red line" when it marched into South Ossetia.

It is, perhaps, no surprise that former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has taken a more Russia-friendly line in the recent Georgia conflict than many of his former colleagues who are still active in politics. After all, Schröder heads up the advisory board of the Gazprom subsidiary currently building the Baltic Sea gas pipeline from Russia to Germany.

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder weighed in on the ongoing Georgia crisis once again on Monday night.

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder weighed in on the ongoing Georgia crisis once again on Monday night.

On Monday evening in Berlin, though, Schröder once again expressed his viewpoint that the West has made major mistakes in its dealings with Russia and that laying too much blame at Moscow's doorstep is the wrong way to go.

Speaking at a benefit dinner organized by AWO International, a German humanitarian and development charity, Schröder said that the US plan to base part of its missile defense system in Poland and the Western recognition of the independence of Kosovo were "grave mistakes." He said that "such policies must seem to Russia like an encirclement." Furthermore, he said, with Georgia's attack on South Ossetia in early August, "a further red line was crossed."

Georgian troops marched into the breakaway province in the night of August 7 in an attempt to regain control over the region. Russia responded with a large-scale military counter-attack which penetrated deep into Georgia proper. At the end of August, Russia recognized the independence of both South Ossetia and Abkhazia, a second renegade Georgian province.

The European Union has responded carefully to Russia's newfound bravado, and issued a statement on Monday night once again emphasizing Georgia's territorial integrity and Russia's "disproportionate response." The EU also "postponed" talks on a new Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with Moscow until Russia completely withdrew its troops from Georgia.

Even that rather tepid measure was a bit too bold for ex-Chancellor Schröder. "We find ourselves in a spiral of confrontation that we need to get out of as quickly as possible," Schröder said, emphasizing that the EU has a central role to play in exiting that spiral. An agreement with Russia is more necessary now than ever, Schröder said.

When it comes to NATO, Schröder is likewise unhappy with the alliance's suspension of its NATO-Russia Council. Furthermore, allowing Georgia and Ukraine to join NATO would be a mistake, he said. "I think it is impossible to plan that at the moment," he said.

Schröder's Monday night critique of the position taken by the West in the ongoing spat with Russia differs little from comments made in an interview with SPIEGEL given soon after the six-day Georgian-Russian war came to an end. In that interview, he spoke of "serious mistakes made by the West." On Monday night, Schröder added an error to the ever-growing list.

Patting himself on the back, he reminded his audience that he had warned against recognizing the independence of Kosovo. Recent events, he said, have proven him right. By recognizing Kosovo, he said, the West provided a blueprint for other such deadlocked conflicts around the world. In the future, he warned, the world will see an increasing number of such "de facto nations" that are only recognized by a very few other countries in the world. This "negative and, from the perspective of international law, problematic development must be stopped."

cgh -- with wire reports


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