But it was more than that, said Mr Schröder. “I had been chancellor. I couldn’t become a lawyer handling leases again. I needed a project,” he said. “Something I knew how to do and where I could serve German interests.”
When Mr Putin called Mr Schröder on his mobile on the night of December 9, 2005, he accepted the offer.
Many in Germany were shocked. No chancellor before him had taken a job in a foreign-controlled company, let alone one that had benefited from their support in office.
But the pipeline project itself remained undisputed.
“The next government went through with it seamlessly,” recalls Mr. Schröder. “Nobody in the first Merkel government said a word to it. Nobody!”
Mr. Ischinger, who was Mr. Schröder’s ambassador to the United States and later chaired the Munich Security Conference, agreed.
“You can’t blame Schröder for Nord Stream 1,” said Mr. ischinger. “Most German politicians, both in government and in the opposition, did not critically question this. No one asked if we were laying the groundwork for putting ourselves into an unhealthy dependency.”
Ms Merkel, through a spokesperson, declined to comment on this article.
Nord Stream 1 took six years to plan and build. In 2011, Mr Schröder attended both opening ceremonies – one on the Russian side, in Vyborg, together with Mr. Putin, then the Prime Minister of Russia, and the other on the German side, in Lubmin, on the Baltic Sea, along with Mrs. Merkel and Mr Putin’s trusted ally, Dmitri A. Medvedev, the Russian president at the time.