IT'S THE SORT of behavior we have -- sadly -- come to expect from some in Congress. But when Gerhard Schroeder, the former German chancellor, announced last week that he was going to work for Gazprom, the Russian energy behemoth, he catapulted himself into a different league. It's one thing for a legislator to resign his job, leave his committee chairmanship and go to work for a company over whose industry he once had jurisdiction. It's quite another thing when the chancellor of Germany -- one of the world's largest economies -- leaves his job and goes to work for a company controlled by the Russian government that is helping to build a Baltic Sea gas pipeline that he championed while in office. To make the decision even more unpalatable, it turns out that the chief executive of the pipeline consortium is none other than a former East German secret police officer who was friendly with Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, back when Mr. Putin was a KGB agent in East Germany. If nothing else, Mr. Schroeder deserves opprobrium for his bad taste.
But the announcement should also raise questions in German voters' minds about the real reasons Mr. Schroeder was so keen to see this pipeline project launched. The pipeline has cost Germany diplomatically by infuriating its Central European and Baltic neighbors. They point out that the Russian government chose to use the sea route rather than run a new pipeline alongside one that already exists on land, despite the far greater expense. The only possible reason for doing so was political: The Baltic Sea pipeline could allow Russia, a country that has made political use of its energy resources, to cut off gas to Central Europe and the Baltic states while still delivering gas to Germany. Many have wondered why Germany chose to go along with this project. Could it have been because the former chancellor realized that he was, in effect, creating his own future place of employment? (ht: 1972)