Sorry – no new post today. I ran out of time between a busy schedule and the France – Switzerland game (and what a game it was, Allez Les Bleus!). Instead I just have a quick comment to make about an article I read today that fits in fairly well with my post from yesterday.
I read this article in the FT about Anders Fogh Rassmussen’s (the Secretary General of NATO) claims that Russia is funding anti-fracking groups in Europe. This is truly fascinating. I already looked yesterday at the role Russia’s gas maneuvering with China has had on Australia’s LNG sector – evidently this move indicates that energy politicking is something the Russians are very keen on – and for good reasons too.
A former boss of mine, who happened to be a Russia/Caucus/Central Asia expert, once had a great metaphor for Russian Foreign policy. He said that Russia was playing poker with no possibility of winning but is trying to stay on the table as long as possible. Expanding on that metaphor, Russia is trying to pay off the other players to intentionally fold! At least that’s what would make the most sense. Fracking has the possibility to revolutionize Europe by bringing cheap, easily accessible natural gas to the region – thus reducing the need for Russian gas. Since Gazprom has what amounts to a monopoly on gas in Eastern Europe, it would make sense for them to want to keep their business booming.
If you look at the crisis in Ukraine too, this fits into the narrative of Russia maintaining its energy clients. There has been a lot of talk recently of Europe trying to develop a unified energy strategy (to be clear, they talk about a lot of things in Europe, so don’t hold your breath). A Ukraine closer to Europe would be more likely to work against Russia in energy matters – something very troublesome for Russia as Ukraine is the gateway to Europe. Obviously, energy was not the ONLY reason Russia has taken a belligerent stance on Ukraine, but it certainly didn’t help the situation.
Overall, today’s news is fascinating as it is the first true indication (if proven correct) of covert operations to maintain Russia’s grasp on the European gas market. As time goes on, I am convinced we will start to see more of this coming from the Russians as they jockey to maintain their energy hegemony. Who knows, perhaps Russia is funding the anti-Keyston XL folks!