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How Putin Made Europe Dependent on Russian Gas

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About 40% of the gas consumed by the European Union (EU) comes from Russia. This dependence on Russian gas was the result of two political decisions: not to exploit shale, and to discard nuclear power plants in most of the countries of the bloc. These two policies were promoted by European NGOs and environmentalist parties.

Europe’s energy dependence on Russia is the result of its green political agenda, and the suspicious business dealings of key elements of European political environmentalism with the Kremlin are on display.

For example, Belgium’s Federal Energy Minister Tinne Van der Straeten, of the environmentalist Groen Party, was a 50% partner in a law firm whose biggest clients included the Russian gas corporation Gazprom. Upon assuming her Ministry in 2020, Van der Straeten brought forward the dismantling of the Belgian civil nuclear fleet to be replaced by gas-fired power plants. Although the reduction of CO2 emissions is the main slogan of political environmentalism, in Europe green activists and politicians, are asking to replace their nuclear power plants with gas-fired power plants that emit forty times more CO2.

In Germany, the influential environmental organizations BUND, NABU and WWF set up the environmental foundation Naturschutzstiftung Deutsche Ostsee with Nord Stream AG, a consortium of five companies established in Switzerland in 2005, to build and operate two pipelines to export Russian gas to Europe under the Baltic Sea. The consortium partners are Gazprom International Projects LLC (with 51% of the project) Wintershall Dea AG, PEG Infrastruktur AG, N.V. Nederlandse Gasunie and ENGIE.

Washington opposed these projects during the Obama and Trump administrations, but in July 2021 the Biden administration changed policy and accepted Nord Stream 2, until the Russian invasion of Ukraine forced the White House and Berlin to stop the new pipeline to sanction Moscow.

Russia’s authoritarian leader, Vladimir Putin. (Image: EFE)

Earlier, the Naturschutzstiftung Deutsche Ostsee was endowed with 10 million euros by Gazprom, according to Nord Stream itself. BUND, NABU, and WWF were politically very successful in opposing both civil nuclear power in Germany and shale gas development in Europe. France is the only EU power whose politicians continue to support civil nuclear power and associate energy independence with emission reductions.

For years, it has been reported that the Kremlin is allegedly financing influential environmental organizations in Europe to commit “green” policy to fierce opposition to civil nuclear power and shale gas development in Europe, in order to make the continent increasingly dependent on Russian natural gas.

In 2014 NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said to The Guardian: “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.”

‘Receiving a lot of money legally from Russia’s largest natural gas corporation and then pushing an environmentalist political agenda that, willingly or unwittingly, favors Europe’s dependence on Russian gas would not be criminal, but it would be a hypocritical and unacceptable quid pro quo.

What is certain is that nuclear energy is the only technically, economically, and ecologically efficient alternative to really reduce CO2 generation when producing electricity.

Under European soil, there are significant reserves of natural gas in shale that, in the EU’s much-heralded transition to “green” energy, would have needed to be exploited to reduce dependence on Russian gas while new state-of-the-art nuclear power plants were being built and put into operation. Yet, none of that was done because under the influence of a “green” political agenda, and growing energy dependence on Moscow was chosen instead, without which challenges such as the occupation of Crimea in 2014 and the invasion of Ukraine in 2022 would have been much more problematic for the Kremlin.

Guillermo Rodríguez is a professor of Political Economy in the extension area of the Faculty of Economic and Administrative Sciences at Universidad Monteávila, in Caracas. A researcher at the Juan de Mariana Center and author of several books // Guillermo es profesor de Economía Política en el área de extensión de la Facultad de Ciencias Económicas y Administrativas de la Universidad Monteávila, en Caracas, investigador en el Centro Juan de Mariana y autor de varios libros

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