It’s freezing cold outside when Gerhard Schröder invites us into his comfortable office near the zoo in Hanover. The former chancellor has just returned from representing Germany at Fidel Castro’s funeral in Havana and will be traveling to Turkey afterwards. But a number of things are also turning frosty in world politics. Which immediately takes us into a discussion about the dividing lines between East and West and maintaining stability in a world threatening to fall apart at the seams.
Mr. Schröder, who has drawn criticism in Germany for a closeness with Russian politicians and businesses since leaving office, says he’s less worried about Donald Trump than most mainstream politicians. Nor is Mr. Schröder particularly worried about Russian President Vladimir Putin. The key, he insists, is that the U.S. and Russian leaders find better ways to talk to each other.
Mr. Schröder, what a year: refugee crisis, Brexit, Donald Trump, now a terrorist attack on a Christmas market in Berlin. Is this still the world you know and understand?
Gerhard Schröder: It’s become more complicated but there were threats in the past. The horrific attack in Berlin is but one in a series of acts of terror that we have been experiencing for over 10 years in Europe – in Paris, London and Madrid. We must fight this form of terrorism with a strong state, but not abandon the liberality in our society. The federal government must maintain this balance.
Donald Trump immediately called for an all-out war to put an end to IS.
You know, I’m relaxed on the subject of Trump. How we all cried out when the former actor, Ronald Reagan, was elected U.S. president. Mr. Reagan may have then economically practiced pure neoliberalism, but together with Mikhail Gorbachev, he also contributed to the end of the Cold War. He had gathered a good team of advisors around himself. It is to be hoped that a President Trump will be open to good advice. Moreover, the democratic institutions in the U.S. are strong enough to build up a counterbalance to the president.