Interview Drieu Godefridi, PhD, author ‘The Green Reich’ © 2022
In 2014, former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen claimed that Russia, at the forefront of disinformation operations, was funding environmental activists fighting shale gas to maintain Europe’s dependence on imported Russian gas. What evidence led Rasmussen to make such accusations? Where is the evidence of this funding?
Rasmussen’s exact words are: ‘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.’ These comments were reported by The Guardian, in an article of 19 June 2014. Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who before becoming NATO Secretary General was Prime Minister of Denmark, expressly refuses to elaborate on these accusations, as it is not his place to do so. He rightly confines himself to his competence as secretary-general of a military alliance, which is neither judicial nor journalistic.
It should be noted that the fact that an environmental organisation is funded by the Russian government is not in itself illegal. This is the ambiguity of the matter. In our context, however, we are struck by the lack of interest shown by the mainstream press in the financing of environmental organisations by the Russian autocratic regime.
Is there any other evidence of Russian state and corporate support for environmental movements?
The clearest case is Germany. In Germany, the leading environmental organisations WWF, BUND and NABU set up an ‘environmental’ foundation with the company Nord-Stream, which is an offshoot of the Russian gas giant Gazprom. This ‘environmental’ foundation was endowed with 10 million euros by Gazprom. These facts are not disputed and even claimed by Nord Stream/Gazprom on its German website. The funding of a German environmental foundation by Gazprom, the Russian gas giant, is thus established. The same environmentalist organisations that are coupled with Gazprom were, moreover, at the same time fierce opponents of German civil nuclear power and shale gas exploitation in Europe.
In Belgium, the current Minister of Energy, Christinne Van der Straeten, comes from the Flemish Green party GROEN. Before becoming a minister, Christinne Van der Straeten was a 50% partner in a law firm whose ‘big’ clients included Gazprom, the Russian government’s gas giant. When she became Minister, Mrs. Van der Straeten undertook to dismantle the entire Belgian civil nuclear power plant and to replace it with gas-fired power plants, which will have to be supplied by Gazprom, among others.
The director of the Foundation for Political Innovation (Fondapol) explained on CNEWS on 26 February last that ‘Gazprom funding has been found, in particular in ecological NGOs which have provided ministers to certain European countries and which are then embarked on a sort of return of the lift by defending the exit from nuclear power’, and gave the example of Belgium. Can you imagine the clamour for Christinne Van der Straeten’s astonishing ‘career’ in a Scandinavian country? Can you imagine the feast of journalistic investigations into the financial and professional trajectory of the minister and her entourage, had it been a personality from a non-green party?
In the United States, two of the most prominent US congressmen on energy have traced tens of millions of dollars in funding to the largest US environmental organisations, all the way back to a US foundation. That foundation was itself funded by millions from a Bermuda-based shell company set up by two individuals who specialised in laundering money from the government of the Russian Federation. For at least two decades, the Russian Federation has indeed created a huge network of shell companies in discrete legal fiefdoms to seal the distribution of funds to organisations and individuals in the West. For example, in 2008 a court in the British Virgin Islands convicted one of these shell companies of ‘operating a sophisticated money laundering scheme from the government of the Russian Federation to ‘clean up’ the money and reinvest it’ (‘From Russia with Love? Examining Links Between US Environmental Funder and The Kremlin‘)
What concrete and proven impact has this had on European and national decisions?
This is the central question, you are right. It could be rephrased as follows: can you be funded by a foreign government without taking any account of it? Let me give you a personal example. Like many French politicians and intellectuals, I have responded on several occasions to questions and interview requests from the RT France channel. RT France is a Russian government channel, 100% financed by the government of the Russian Federation. The reason why I have never accepted a cent of remuneration from RT France, direct or indirect. Because I don’t think it is possible to claim freedom of content on political subjects in the West while being financed by the Russian government. This independence is a moral requirement, legal in some cases, whatever you want. From my point of view, the requirement is primarily epistemological: you don’t bite the hand that feeds you. When the Russian government funds environmental organisations, it is not disinterested. When environmental organisations accept funding from the Russian government, they are thereby entering into a form of docility towards this autocratic government, its economic interests and its geopolitical positions.
Have we become convinced of the rhetoric of these environmental movements? Are we paying the consequences today?
Environmental organisations, movements and parties in Europe have obtained satisfaction on two important issues: the ban on the exploitation of rock gas, also known as shale gas, and the destruction by several states of their civil nuclear power plants. These two environmental victories guarantee Europe’s dependence on Russian gas. Today, Europe imports 40% of its gas from Russia; in Germany this percentage rises to 55%. In other words, from an energy point of view, Europe is at the mercy of the autocratic Russian regime. In environmentalist circles, it is argued that Germany could substitute American gas for Russian gas: between permits and construction, it will take several years for Germany to acquire an LNG terminal (it does not have one, only Gazprom pipelines). In reality, the Russian war effort in Ukraine is financed by European money. The think tank Bruegel estimates that the current European contribution to the Russian war effort is around 700 million euros per day:
As Damien Ernst, professor at the University of Liège and energy specialist, pointed out, 660 million euros per day is the equivalent of 200 new Russian T-90 tanks. Per day.
A final word?
The horror of Russia’s abuses in Ukraine demands that light be shed on the funding of environmental organisations in the West by the government of the Russian Federation. Is this not a moral obligation as well as a national security one? Don’t we owe it to history, to the Ukrainian people and to our children to know the truth about this objective complicity?
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