Is Moscow "secretly working with environmentalists to oppose fracking" in Europe?

That’s what the chief of NATO suggested at a conference last week, and frankly, I wouldn’t put it past the Kremlin. Via the Guardian:

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, secretary-general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato), and former premier of Denmark, told the Chatham House thinktank 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.”

He declined to give details of those operations, saying: “That is my interpretation.” …

A Nato official told the Guardian that Russia’s influence on energy supplies was causing problems for Europe. The official said: “We don’t go into the details of discussions among allied leaders, but Russia has been using a mix of hard and soft power in its attempt to recreate a sphere of influence, including through a campaign of disinformation on many issues, including energy. …”

I doubt many of these groups of usefully idiotic eco-crusaders really need any outside prodding to fuel their campaign to thwart Europe’s exploration and fracking of its own potential shale deposits (and, incidentally, Europe’s best practical hope for cleaner-burning emissions at the moment as well as economic growth, good grief), but Russia most definitely does not want that fracking to happen. Russia’s revenue and economy are largely dependent on energy exports, and because Putin’s government wants to keep the Europeans dependent on their gas shipments, Russian officials have been publicly critical of fracking — even as they themselves try to entice Western companies to share their fracking know-how to further unlock more of Russia’s reserves. As Keith Johnson at Foreign Policy notes, you expect the usual environmentalist opposition in places like Britain and Germany, but in other areas in Europe, the sudden rise of outright opposition is  a little more oddly conspicuous:

“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.

Bulgaria’s anti-shale movement is particularly telling. The country initially embraced fracking as a way to develop its own energy resources and reduce reliance on Russia, even signing an exploration deal with Chevron in 2011. But then came an eruption of seemingly grassroots environmental protests and a televised blitz against fracking. In early 2012, the government reversed course and banned the practice.

Researchers who’ve worked on the ground in Central and Eastern Europe say there is plenty of anecdotal evidence, if no smoking guns, of Russian financial support for some environmental groups that have recently mobilized opposition to shale gas development.

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David Strom 8:41 PM on January 30, 2023