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Putin’s Anti-fracking Campaign or the Greening of Eastern Europe

From ‘Shale World’
It has been reported that President Vladimir Putin is actively supporting anti-fracking initiatives in several European countries to slow down the US shale revolution and avoid its spread in Europe. According to NATO Secretary General Anders Rasmussen, Russia’s intelligence agencies are working directly with European environmental grounds to fund anti-fracking campaigns, as reported by The Week.

“I have met allies who can report that Russia, as part of their sophisticated information and disinformation operations, engage actively with so-called non-government organizations — environmental organizations working against shale gas — obviously to maintain European dependence on imported Russian gas,” said Mr. Rasmussen after a Chatham House speech.

European buyers are by far Russia’s biggest customers. While Russia recently agreed to sell 38 billion cubic meters of natural gas a year to China; last year, it exported 161, 5 billion cubic meters of gas worth 60 billion dollars to European countries. But Europeans are now looking to diversify their supplies away from Russian gas and looking at US liquefied natural gas exports and US shale expertise as the energy supply alternatives they need.

In Eastern Europe, energy experts have reported the mysterious mushrooming of well-organised and well-funded environmental opposition to fracking, suddenly appearing in countries with little prior environmental concerns, such as Romania, Bulgaria, and Lithuania, which are all heavily dependent on Russia for energy supplies. “All of a sudden, in societies that never did grassroots organisation very well, you saw all these NGOs well-funded, popping up, and causing well-organised protests”, said Mihaela Carstei, energy and environment analyst at the Atlantic Council.

Bulgaria had signed in 2011 an exploration deal with Chevron, with the hope to develop its own resources and reduce dependency on Russia. Immediately after, a number of environmental protests sprang up as well as a televised blitz against fracking. In 2012, the government banned fracking. Researchers working on the ground in those countries have gathered evidence of Russian financial support for some environmental initiatives against shale development. In Ukraine and Lithuania, the same thing has happened, where well-organised anti-fracking movements appeared at strategic moments, for example as Ukraine’s government was about to finalise shale deals with Western energy firms.

As hard as Putin might try, shale exploration has effectively started in Great Britain and Poland, and deals with US energy companies have been signed by several eastern European nations, including Lithuania and Romania.