Bulgaria’s fracking dreams have gone deferred in recent years in no small part thanks to loud and well-organized popular opposition. As the FT reports, some see the Kremlin behind this green outrage that pushed the Bulgarian government to cancel a shale licensing agreement with Chevron nearly three years ago:
[S]ome in Sofia believe a Russian hand helped foment the protests for its own ends. They point to Kremlin links to local groups that supplied demonstrators and funded an anti-shale media campaign. The goal, they believe, was to punish the pro-European Mr Borisov for pursuing policies that might reduce Bulgaria’s dependence on Russian energy. […]Those who suspect Moscow’s involvement in the unrest in Sofia point to a media campaign – said to be worth €20m – backing the anti-shale protests. It was handled by several local media and advertising companies with Russian connections…One person involved in the campaign described it as “unprecedented for Bulgaria”, involving multiple environmental groups, paid protesters bussed in from around the country and a television blitz.
This belief that Russia is behind these anti-fracking protests can also be found in Lithuania, where well-funded and well-organized opposition also forced out Chevron. There’s no smoking gun as of yet behind these worries, but as the NYT reports, “circumstantial evidence, plus large dollops of Cold War-style suspicion, have added to mounting alarm over covert Russian meddling to block threats to its energy stranglehold on Europe.”It is certainly in Moscow’s best interests if Europe continues to ignore its shale energy reserves, as that keeps its western customers heavily dependent on Gazprom gas. So how about it—is Putin a global green ambassador?