Gerhard Schröder Bows Before Putin, With A Nod To Steven Seagal

The former German Chancellor has had a troubling second act in global politics.

Putin and Medvedev, as Schröder waits his turn on Monday
Putin and Medvedev, as Schröder waits his turn on Monday
Sascha Lehnartz


BERLIN — After his inauguration in the Kremlin, Vladimir Putin shook hands with just three men: first the Patriarch Cyril, then the former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and finally Dmitry Medvedev — whom he confirmed shortly afterwards in his position as Prime Minister.

The significance of such symbolic protocol gestures should not be underestimated. In autocratic regimes, the privilege of sitting or standing in the front row, close to the great wise leader, is always comforting evidence that you're still in the boss' good books, for now. The box seat is a life insurance policy, but one that can be canceled unilaterally at any time.

Things are no different in the Russian Federation's 18-year-old "managed democracy." Gerhard Schröder has thus finally reached the front row of exemplary Putin propagandists. He faithfully fulfills the role Putin has assigned him. Cyril gives Putin the spiritual blessing, Medvedev is his political henchman, Schröder's task is to give post-Soviet neo-czarism a touch of international respectability.

This is depressing.

Schröder thus supports a Russian foreign policy the primary goal of which remains to undermine the international order where it still exists. And he tolerates continued internal repression. Just this past weekend, some 1,600 anti-Putin protesters were arrested across Russia.

The fact that a former German chancellor can be recruited for this role is depressing. The prerequisite for the position is that you leave your political judgment and moral compass at the Kremlin's cloakroom.

By the way, just a bit behind Schröder was Steven Seagal, a down-and-out action movie actor who hasn't had a box-office success in 20 years. The longer you look at the pitiful picture, the clearer it becomes that this is the league in which Gerhard Schröder now belongs: He is the Steven Seagal of international politics.

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In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

— Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.

It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park


Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

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