In a previous post Russia Blog discussed Gazprom's deal with several German banks and the Schroeder government to build a natural gas pipeline under the Baltic to Germany that would bypass Poland and Ukraine. As one of our readers pointed out in a comment, with Ukraine not paying its gas bill, who could blame Russia for wanting to have an alternate route to ship oil and gas to Europe, just as the Clinton Administration wanted to see multiple pipeline routes for Caspian Sea oil in the 1990s?
Today's piece by Washington Post reporter Anne Applebaum, who is married to the Polish Defense Minister Radek Sikorski (formerly with the American Enterprise Institute), will surely annoy Russophiles in the U.S. I suspect they will particularly take offense at her comparison of Russia's lobbying in D.C. with Saudi Arabia's -- especially since Russia is fighting Chechen jihadists who have been bankrolled in part by Saudi money.
Meanwhile, the BBC today is covering former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's angry denials that there was any connection between his touting of the Gazprom deal as Chancellor and his accepting a major position with the Russian state-owned giant upon leaving office.
To be fair, the deal Schroeder announced merely completed years of negotiations and plans dating back to before the collapse of the Soviet Union, when the crumbling USSR desperately needed Western capital to modernize its oil and gas infrastructure but didn't get it, mostly due to tumbling oil prices in the mid-1980s and perhaps, to hear some veteran Cold Warriors tell it, the economic warfare of the Reagan Administration, scuttling several deals with European banks. I remember talking with Matthew Brzezinski, author of Casino Moscow, about a Stratfor report I'd read on several German banks joint attempt to buy 49% of Gazprom back in November 2001.
Applebaum does have a point that most foreign lobbying in D.C. is not of the "registered foreign agent" kind, but involves foreign dignitaries and companies giving money to favored foundations, think tanks and universities. But if this is the case, Russians are very late arrivals in the game, and their money should hardly be compared with the Saudis' or the Gulf emirates, considering that no one has accused Russia of funding terrorists or satellite TV channels that spout anti-American propaganda.