It is well known that, during the Cold War, the Soviet Union quietly funneled money to Western peace movements. It funded people who opposed nuclear weapons and wanted unilateral disarmament of the West. It funded people who opposed strategic nuclear weapons in central Europe. It funded parts of the anti-war movement.
To be clear, most of the people involved in these movements had no affiliation with the Soviet Union or knew of Soviet involvement. They were “useful idiots”. But many in the leadership knew. And, to be clear, Soviet funding did not make these movements illegitimate, per se. You could oppose Vietnam and nuclear weapons and not be a Communist stooge. But the Soviet Union had and pursued an interest in certain factions within Western politics that overlapped with their own interests.
Nothing changes, does it?
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen recently announced that the Russian intelligence service was covertly funding European environmental NGOs to support their campaign against fracking. The former Danish Prime Minister stated that he had “met allies who can report that Russia, as part of their sophisticated information and disinformation operations, engaged actively with so-called non-governmental organizations – environmental organizations working against shale gas – to maintain European dependence on imported Russian gas.”
The accusations do not seem too far-fetched. Russia is very keen on dissuading Europe from exploiting its shale reserves. Disregardful of their own massive fracking projects in Siberia, Vladimir Putin uses environmental arguments to push an EU-wide fracking ban. In a similar fashion, he tries to discourage the US from exporting of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) to Europe. This is an option some European politicians such as Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague suggested as a way to reduce European energy dependency from Russia. It is currently on the table in the negotiations on the trade agreement between the European Union and the United States (TTIP).
Right now, much of Europe is dependent on Putin’s oiligarchy for their energy. Fracking is not only a threat to that but a threat to all of Putin’s imperial ambitions. Wide-scale fracking would deliver a huge blow to the Russian economy. So naturally he opposes it. Naturally, as former KGB, he’s willing to fund anti-fracking groups. And I suspect that, like the Peace movement, some within the anti-fracking leadership are aware of this and more than willing to take his money.
Fracking opponents will, of course, claim that Putin’s money doesn’t matter; fracking is so awful that they have to oppose it. They will, of course, claim that what they want is a world that runs on renewables, with neither fracking nor Putin having a role. But that’s living in fantasy world. Even under the most optimistic assumptions, Europe will not be able to provide more than a fraction of their power through renewables within the next few decades. And with nuclear now on the wane, that means they will need tons and tons of fossil fuels.
So it really is a matter of picking the lesser of two evils. In fracking, you have some legitimate environmental concerns (most of which have been addressed or are being addressed). But you have a less carbon-intensive source of energy and companies that are accountable to Western nations. Russian oil not only props up a bloodthirsty tyrant, it supports one of the dirtiest polluters on the planet. As bad as fracking may or may not be, Russian oil is far worse for the planet, for Eastern Europe and for global security.
Fracking opponents will tell you that fracking is being pushed by “dirty money” from natural gas interests. But, good Lord, is there any money dirtier than Vladimir Putin’s?