Gerhard Schröder is once again the laughing stock of the country. But is it fair to blame him for everything that has gone wrong in Russian politics?

A man sits at his desk.

Out of service? Gerhard Schröder celebrates his big birthday on Sunday Photo: Sven Wettengel/ndr

It's hard to get old. You don't have to be 80 years old to have knee pain. Aging gracefully is even harder. So neither working-age youth nor everything-doesn't-matter-now.

Gerhard Schröder celebrates his big birthday on Sunday. And the man can be congratulated for having reached this obviously privately happy, self-satisfied and apparently healthy old age.

On the occasion of this birthday, a documentary has been released that Germany is currently working on. In it, Schröder says phrases similar to Schröder's and calls Kevin Kühnert a “wight” because he took him out of the SPD's ancestry gallery. He misses the professionalism at the Foreign Ministry of Annalena Baerbock. He wants more realpolitik and less morality. He talks about supposedly free elections in Russia. So far, nothing surprising.

It is right to continually address the failings of Germany's Russia policy and Schröder's role as a Kremlin lobbyist. But does that require a golf course story?

The concern for the former chancellor, not only in the television documentary but also in dozens of articles about her, has an aftertaste. It's as if Schröder is the perfect choice for the Germans, acting as the bogeyman for her own bad conscience.

Always the same questions

It's not that Schröder had to seduce the Germans into buying cheap Russian gas. It was the desire of German industry and also a particularly German way of facing the past. They didn't want to deal with what their own parents had done on the Eastern Front, but reconciliation with Russia and doing good business at the same time was a good thing.

A book on German-Israeli relations has just been published, “Absolution?” by Daniel Marwecki. It shows that relations between the two countries are not the “miracle of forgiveness” that German politicians like to exaggerate in commemorations, but rather the result of a tough policy on the part of both sides: after the founding of the state, Israel needed weapons and money, Germany needed Israel to be recognized as a post-fascist state.

As I read it, I thought it might be worth looking at German-Russian relations with a sober, analytical lens, rather than asking the same questions over and over again of a former chancellor incapable of self-criticism.

Merkel's Russia policy was also wrong

In any case, it is easy to become indignant at Schröder and forget Angela Merkel's contribution to the failed Russia and its energy policy. But like so many things, women have a better chance of aging with dignity. Merkel is currently working on her memoir, which is rumored to be a double-digit million advance. She also wants to defend her contradictory legacy and has so far shown little self-criticism. She is a little smarter than her predecessor.

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The excessive concern for Gerhard Schröder says more about the Germans than about their former chancellor. There will be in the south germans he complained that there were no more elder statesmen and then brought in Wolfgang Schäuble, simply because he liked to give interviews about democracy itself, after having brought the European Union to the brink.

Schröder, on the other hand: You like him as he runs around the country, smiling like a schoolboy, without fear of any provocation. In addition to the golf course, there will also be visits to Chinese companies that Schröder visited by plane to greet August. For example, a company in which Schröder bites into an edible plate. How nice that a German television crew flew in to capture this moment.