SPIEGEL: Robert Kagan, an idol of the neoconservatives and still the Republicans' leading foreign policy thinker, has defined the day of Russia's invasion of Georgia as the beginning of renewed territorial conflicts between the major powers and "as a turning point no less significant than Nov. 9, 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell."
Schröder: I read that, but it too means nothing to me. Kagan, after all, was one of the men who strongly advised intervening in Iraq. The consequences were not pleasant, neither for America nor Europe. Perhaps one should simply not listen to his advice.
SPIEGEL: In an article in Die Zeit a few weeks ago, you wrote that the "transitional phase of American dominance" is now coming to an end. What exactly did you mean by that? And does this automatically lead to the conclusion of a multipolar, better world?
Schröder: The end of unipolar America is not just evident in the rise of a Democratic presidential candidate, Obama, but also in the policies of rationally thinking Republicans. If you read the nonpartisan Baker-Hamilton report on the future of Iraq, you will find it difficult not to recognize that the next US president will hardly have any other choice but to act in a multipolar way -- no matter what one politician or another says in the US election campaign.
SPIEGEL: Regardless of whether the next man in charge at the White House is Barack Obama or John McCain?
Schröder: Of course that will make a difference. But I believe that even a Republican administration, which I certainly am not hoping for, could not avoid taking a more multipolar approach once again, involving allies and working together with international organizations. Apparently those in Washington have also understood that one can win wars alone, but not the peace.
SPIEGEL: What role should Europe play in this multipolar world? Isn't there a sharp division between countries like Germany, France and Italy, who are unwilling, especially now, to allow cooperation with Moscow to come to an end, and the Baltic states, Poland and the Czech Republic, all characterized by their fear of Russia?
Schröder: The process of European unification on foreign and security policy certainly has not become easier since I left office as chancellor in 2005. This also has something to do with the integration of the newly added states. This unification process must be understood as a historic opportunity, even if it has its price.
SPIEGEL: It is dragging on.
SPIEGEL: And is that how Russia sees itself?
Schröder: At least it is the way the current leadership sees it. And we in Germany and Europe should interpret this as an opportunity. Russia has an Asian alternative, but Europe does not. Besides, such a constellation does not necessarily have to lead to Europe distancing itself from the United States.
SPIEGEL: This sounds very optimistic. You don't see a remake of the Cold War developing?
Schröder: No. At least it would not be in the Russian leadership's interest. I am completely opposed to demonizing Russia. And I believe that Moscow will soon see the need, once again, for greater integration into the international community.
SPIEGEL: And Washington will refrain from punishing the Kremlin leadership and forcing Russia out of organizations like the G-8?
Schröder: This narrow view, which McCain, for example, holds, will not prevail -- that's what I hope and expect.
SPIEGEL: Are you speaking in your capacity as former chancellor or as an employee of the Russian state-owned company Gazprom?
Schröder: SPIEGEL should not participate in the spreading of misinformation. I am not anyone's employee, but rather the chairman of the shareholders' committee of Nord Stream, a Dutch-German-Russian joint venture, whose sole purpose is to build a pipeline through the Baltic Sea that will make Germany's and Europe's gas supply significantly more secure.
SPIEGEL: Mr. Schröder, we thank you for this interview.
Interview conducted by Erich Follath and Gerhard Spörl.
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