From the vault: Russia allegedly backed European environmentalists on fracking bans
Russian gas exports to Europe are still one item that – for the moment – remains off the sanctions list.
The reason: Europe is heavily reliant on Russian gas to power its economies, and keep its residents warm in the winter. But there was a time, and not very long ago, when Europe was a major gas producer – bigger than Russia is today. What happened?
Fracking bans, for one. And as articles from the vault indicate, the environmental groups who pushed those bans allegedly did so with the full backing of Putin’s government. According to a story in the Guardian from 2014:
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, secretary-general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato), and former premier of Denmark, told the Chatham House think tank in London on Thursday that Vladimir Putin’s government was behind attempts to discredit fracking, according to reports.
Rasmussen said: “I have met allies who can report that Russia, as part of their sophisticated information and disinformation operations, engaged actively with so-called non-governmental organisations – environmental organisations working against shale gas – to maintain European dependence on imported Russian gas.”
The groups protested that they had nothing to do with Moscow:
“The idea we’re puppets of Putin is so preposterous that you have to wonder what they’re smoking over at Nato HQ,” said Greenpeace, which has a history of antagonism with the Russian government, which arrested several of its activists on a protest in the Arctic last year.
In a 2014 Foreign Policy article, we get this:
Russian energy firms and officials, as well as Kremlin-controlled media, have lambasted fracking on environmental grounds for years. Top Gazprom officials and even Russian President Vladimir Putin have attacked the technology, which, if adopted, could ease Europe’s dependence on Russian gas.
But one thing has for years puzzled energy experts: Well-organized and well-funded environmental opposition to fracking in Europe sprang up suddenly in countries such as Bulgaria and Ukraine, which had shown little prior concern for the environment but which are heavily dependent on Russia for energy supplies. Similar movements have also targeted Europe’s plans to build pipelines that would offer an alternative to reliance on Moscow.
“It’s very concrete; it relates to both opposition to shale and also trying to block any alternative pipelines with environmental challenges,” said Brenda Shaffer, an energy expert at Georgetown University. “There is a lot of evidence here; countries like Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine being at the vanguard of the environmental movement is enough for it to be conspicuous,” she said.
And there’s this, from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who “complained in a speech to a private audience in 2016, ‘We were even up against phony environmental groups, and I’m a big environmentalist, but these were funded by the Russians …’”
These are allegations of events that occurred several years ago. But they add context to the story unfolding in Ukraine and across Europe today.And are something to keep in mind for the future.