Recent reports have illuminated Russia’s relationship with European environmentalist movements, aimed at weakening the continent’s energy independence.
“It has recently come to light that environmental organisations operating within the European Union have, to a large extent, been a cover for Russian lobbying aimed at weakening the EU economically and making member states dependent on Russian energy resources,” Polish MEP Witold Jan Waszczykowski declared to the European Commission in March.
“These so-called environmental organisations have focused their activities on three main objectives: fighting against the development of nuclear energy, fighting against energy production from fossil fuels extracted within the EU, including through fracking, and promoting so-called green energy (including solar and wind) at the expense of the previous two.
“Today, in the face of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, it is clear that Russia’s machinations have effectively made a large number of member states dependent on raw materials from Russia. Countries such as Germany do not agree with the imposition of an embargo on Russian raw materials, arguing that there are no alternatives.”
Waszczykowski’s accusations are clear.
It has long been understood by European governments that Russia relies upon environmentalist and anti-climate change groups as a vector for their information campaign on the continent.
The goal, according to elected members such as Waszczykowski, was to weaken the independence of Europe’s energy system – making them more reliant on Russian gas imports, and thus strengthening Russia’s economic and political control over European governments.
“The Russians actually fund some of the most rabid environmental groups in Europe because they sic them on the energy projects that aren’t Russian," James Carafano, vice president of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy told Fox News.
Indeed, accusations of Russian meddling in Europe’s energy crisis have come from the heart of NATO itself. Speaking to The Guardian in June 2014, the secretary-general of NATO and former prime minister of Denmark Anders Fogh Rasmussen shone a spotlight on the extent to which Russia collaborates with environmentalist movements to disrupt European energy independence: “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,” Rasmussen said.
This has long been on the radar for the United States government. In 2017, Representatives Lamar Smith and Randy Weber penned a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin – detailing evidence of Russian funding within the environmentalist movement.
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The letter references a speech made by then secretary of state Hillary Clinton, “We were up against Russia pushing oligarchs and others to buy media. We were even up against phony environmental groups, and I’m a big environmentalist, but these were funded by the Russians to stand against any effort, ‘Oh that pipeline, that fracking, that whatever will be a problem for you,’ and a lot of the money supporting that message was coming from Russia.”
In fact, the letter by Reps. Smith and Weber even alleged that US intelligence services are staunchly aware of Russia’s campaign against effective fuels, citing a Newsweek report that details “clear evidence that the Kremlin is financing and choreographing anti-fracking propaganda in the United States”.
To read more about Russian collaboration with green energy groups, the letter can be found here.
In mid-June, Defence Connect published an analysis on energy prices in Europe – and how energy costs will hurt defence industry and acquisition.
Days before, Russia’s gas behemoth Gazprom announced that it intends to reduce the sale of gas through Nord Stream 1 into Europe by 59 per cent.
Such a reduction will not only hurt households and small businesses, but severely undermine the financial resilience of Europe’s largest economies.
Already, between May 2021 and 2022, producer prices in Germany increased by a reported 33.6 percent – with energy being a leading driver of price growth at 87.1 per cent.
Not only do such stark figures illustrate a marked increase in the price of civilian output, but also herald a substantial increase in the costs of military maintenance, innovation and industrial capability.
“Germany is a case study — perhaps the case study — of a Western middle power which made a strategic bet on a full embrace of interdependence and globalisation in the late 20th century: it outsourced its security to the US, its export-led growth to China, and its energy needs to Russia,” Constanze Stelzenmüller, senior Fellow at the Center on the United States and Europe testified to the US Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Following Gazprom’s recent bombshell, you’d be right to project further increases in energy prices.
Though the recent spike in energy prices is not just isolated to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
In March, Germany’s federal office of statistics confirmed that prices “for energy produced in Germany” throughout the previous year has increased by 68 per cent, representing substantial pre-invasion price increases.
So, according to the Clean Energy Wire, what are some of the causes of Europe’s spikes in energy cost?
“Unfavourable weather conditions” that resulted in a decline in wind power is one, and the closure of three German nuclear power plants is another.
So, will Australia learn from the mistakes of our friends in Europe and maintain an independent energy policy based upon tried and tested fuels?
Not if Australia listens to the cacophony of zealots and self-appointed energy-cum-international relations-cum-military experts.
And certainly not if we listen to the brightest sparks among them, who somehow argue with mouth-foaming fervour that the recent security deal between the Solomon Islands and China stems from Australia’s alleged inaction on climate change.
Pro-tip: China produces more emissions in 16-days than Australia does in an entire year.
As our friends in Europe have come to realise, maintaining energy reliability amid global uncertainty is an incredibly fine line to walk.
Let’s not make it harder for ourselves.