Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder was honored by the Russian Academy of Sciences on Thursday for his work in smoothing attitudes to Russia in Germany and the European Union.
Gerhard Schroeder, left, and Vladimir Putin always seemed to get along very well
"I am delighted, because this honor comes from a country close to my heart," Schroeder's office in Berlin quoted him as saying in emailed comments to DPA news agency.
"I understand this acknowledgement as a motivation to engage in further improvement of the partnership between Europe and Russia," Schroeder was quoted as saying.
Schroeder, 64, stunned Europe in 2005 when he agreed to head Russian energy monopoly Gazprom's project to carry Russian gas to Germany via a pipeline on the Baltic Sea base.
His decision was criticized as a sell-out to the Kremlin at a time when a gas dispute between Gazprom and Ukraine threatened supplies to Europe and drove the EU to concentrate efforts on protecting its energy security by diversifying gas supplies away from Russia.
Schroeder was offered 1.5 million euros ($2.3 million) per year, Ria Novosti reported.
The academy said Schroeder's work highlighted that "Europe needs a strong Russia" for good bilateral relations to develop that would act as to "guarantee stability."
It also gave special praise to Schroeder's autobiography "Decisions: My Life in Politics," one chapter of which is devoted to "Russia as a global player."
Russia'a new President Dmitry Medvedev, who also chairs Gazprom's board of directors, wrote the preface to the 2007 Russian edition of the book.
The Russian media reported that former president Vladimir Putin, who enjoyed friendly relations with Schroeder over their seven-year cooperation, oversaw the decision.
But many were critical of the appointment of a politician and businessman to the Academy's ranks, saying it brought down the level of the science-oriented body.
Several important Russian personalities were passed over this year, while more than 10 foreign scientists -- from the United States, France, China, Italy, Ukraine and Finland -- were voted in.