By Andrei Piontkovsky
Germany's ex-Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder is a legend in Russia. He serves Gazprom's interests for a measly couple of million euros a year, sits in at sessions of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and writes books about his staunch friendship with "Genosse Wladimir," who, in the not-so-distant past, earned himself the well-deserved nickname of "Stasi" among business circles in gangster-ridden St. Petersburg.
"...Like Schroeder, all these people are not economically disinterested. Baker is a consultant for the two companies at the commanding heights of the Russian economy, Gazprom and Rosneft. The Kissinger Associates lobbying group, whose Russian section is headed by Graham, feeds in to the Kissinger-Primakov working group, a quasi-private-sector effort, blessed by Putin, to deepen ties between Russia and the United States.
... In addition to the technology and investments, Graham quietly slips in a foreign policy suggestion for the Obama administration that is sure to please the Kremlin: "Finlandizing" Ukraine. Unless that sort of appeasement is pursued, he warns, Russia will continue to oppose the US "wherever and whenever it can." According to Graham, "At the extreme, a weak Russia, with its vast resources and sparse population east of the Urals, could become the object of competition among the great powers, notably China and the United States."'
But it is not immediately obvious whether it is Schroeder licking Putin's boots nowadays or vice versa. The two of them are building, or trying to build, the Nord Stream gas pipeline, an exceptionally costly project that satisfies twin strategic objectives. Demonstratively hostile to the interests of both Belarus and Ukraine, the pipeline is intended to ensure that these countries are under Russia's energy thumb, regardless of who is in power in Minsk and Kyiv.
As a bonus, the pipeline will also consolidate the Russian economy's status as an appendage of Germany's - its supplier of natural resources. Some of Schroeder's predecessors as German chancellor sought to attain the same objective by rather different means.
The Kremlin's achievements in securing the help of Americans willing to offer their influence are equally impressive. Indeed, the Obama administration's Russia policy is being nurtured with advice from people who have no official position in the administration, but close business ties to Russia and the Kremlin: Henry Kissinger, James A. Baker, Thomas Graham, and Dimitri Simes. The first two are major geopolitical figures; Graham and Simes are respected as outstanding Russia specialists. They write key reports for the administration, and shuttle between Moscow and Washington, coordinating the parameters of the Obama administration's effort to "reset" the bilateral relationship. ...
Andrei Piontkovsky is a Russian political scientist and a visiting fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington. THE DAILY STAR publishes this commentary in collaboration with Project Syndicate (c) (www.project-syndicate.org).