Russian connections to anti-fracking activism in the United States underscore Russian President Vladimir Putin’s dedication to keeping Eastern Europe dependent on the oil and natural gas which flows from its state-owned energy giant, Gazprom. Russia has successfully stopped fracking efforts in Eastern Europe through phony environmentalist and media campaigns, and is now attempting to disrupt the surge in American natural gas production that is quickly bringing the U.S. into energy independence, and creating threatening unwanted competition for the Russian energy in Europe.
Exports from the U.S. via the oil and natural gas extraction process known as hydraulic fracturing – or “fracking” – poses a clear danger not only to Gazprom, but to the Russian government. One quarter of the regime’s revenues come from taxes paid by the energy giant, in which the government is a majority stakeholder. It is not surprising, then, that Gazprom is the only major energy company in the world to oppose the development of shale gas. For years its executives have claimed that fracking poses severe environmental risks; Alexander Medvedev, Gazprom’s executive chairman and head of Gazprom Export, has vowed that the Russian state and Gazprom are ready “to wage [ ] war on shale.”
While many former Soviet bloc countries in Eastern Europe have joined NATO and the European Union in an attempt to distance themselves from their Moscow, their overwhelming dependence on Russian energy imports has prevented them from achieving complete independence. Gazprom supplies 30 percent of the European Union’s natural gas, and during a 2009 dispute with Ukraine showed the world that it can make Europe shiver if it turns the spigots off.
European Union nations have repeatedly attempted to find ways to diversify their energy resources, but the powerful environmentalist factions in many countries have lobbied against increased oil and gas imports from the United States and elsewhere. Innocently or no, these groups have played into the hands of Gazprom. After Germans protested in an emotional meltdown when a 2011 tsunami disabled the power supply of three Japanese nuclear reactors, German Chancellor Angela Merkel did an about-face on nuclear energy. With the support of 80 percent of the Bundestag, or German parliament, she decided to phase out nuclear power in that country by 2022. This prompted Russian President Vladimir Putin to jokingly tell the Germans:
I don’t understand how you will heat your houses. You don’t want the gas. You don’t develop nuclear energy. Are you going to heat with firewood? You also have to go to Siberia if you need firewood.
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