(By Ray D.)
Human Rights Take a Back Seat to “Realpolitik” at German-Russian Summit
If the double-standards with which the German press and government treat the US and President Bush were not clear before today, German Chancellor Schroeder has made them exceedingly clear on his current visit to Russia. According to the German news channel “N24” the questionable arrest and incarceration of Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovsky and the Russian government’s treatment of the firm is “not a theme" the Chancellor wants to address with his good friend Vladimir Putin. In fact, Schroeder has gone out of his way to make it clear to his Russian hosts that the matter is not something he wants to bring up. When asked about the Yukos matter, Schroeder stated, “I have no reason to believe that it (the trial against Khodorkovsky and Yukos) is not being conducted according to the state’s legitimate rule of law.”
The war in Chechnya, its countless victims and the lack of a political solution are also matters the two bosom buddies would rather not let disturb their cordial relationship. After all, big business ties are at stake, and apparently human rights have taken a back seat to positioning German firms on the Russian market for the Schroeder government.
In an article hidden far below the main features, Spiegel Online labeled Schroeder’s visit to Russia “a lesson in Realpolitik.” The publication went on to point out that big contracts were at stake, primarily contracts for oil pipelines from Russia to Germany to the UK and for the exploitation of Russia’s natural gas fields and energy resources:
“It was clear to the German delegation however, that such business would not be possible if it had the Russian government against it. That’s how it was in the past, and that is certainly how it will be in the future. Because Putin is on the best path to regaining control over the oil industry. (…) and his methods of intimidation are working.”
What was missing in all of this was the outrage, the condemnation and the indignation at Russia’s lawless trampling of detainees rights and at the war in Chechnya. There will be no Spiegel covers depicting Russian soldiers as drooling Rambos, there will be no covers belittling Putin as a power mad tyrant asking: “Will Russia be democratic?" There will be no impassioned speeches on German talk shows by Green politicians complaining of the Russian government’s illegal detention (or assassination) of anyone standing in its way. After all, being in bed with corrupt, brutal Russian officials is simply “Realpolitik.”
No, true criticism is specially reserved for the USA: A nation that liberated Germany from Nazism. A nation that helped rebuild West Germany after World War II and protected it from Soviet Communism at great expense. A nation that supported German reunification when France and Great Britain opposed it. This is the thanks afforded the United States by the German media and its leftist allies in the German government.
The most ironic and sickening aspect of it all is the deafening silence to be heard from the German left on the issue. No one is out beating drums, screaming “blood for oil” or waving rainbow flags in the streets. No one is angry that Germany’s big industry has priority over human rights when it comes to Russia. An ocean of ink has been spilled in the German media on Abu Ghraib, Iraq and Guantanamo. But articles on the shocking situation in Chechnya and abuses throughout Russia are a rarity by comparison. I guess we can’t be too surprised though. These were the same people who ignored Saddam’s mass murder for years on end and then flew into a rage when President Bush actually proposed putting an end to it.
We here at Medienkritik don’t intend on giving them a free pass…
NOTE: For those who haven't already read it, this is an excellent article by Jeff Gedmin which addresses many of the same themes. I can't recommend it enough.