In addition to open combatants, every wartime power seeks to cultivate “soft power” behind enemy lines by establishing front groups. This fifth column is composed of often well-meaning citizens unwittingly manipulated into spreading foreign propaganda and lobbying their government for another country’s benefit. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union directed “peace” activists to demand the West’s unilateral disarmament … which would have established the USSR as the world’s greatest military power. Former KGB agent Vladimir Putin has employed the same tactics for decades to weaken the U.S. and the EU from within before launching his invasion of Ukraine — and one of his chosen vessels has been the environmentalist movement. According to a mounting collection of evidence, the Russian government funded global environmentalist activism in order to undermine U.S. energy independence, reap vast profits from the global fossil fuel market, and have the option of using energy as a weapon against U.S. allies.
The investigation into this funding, which remains pending, already has the contours of a great spy novel — or if the legacy media did not reflexively cover for the Left, a series of documentaries. Investigators say the money flows from the Kremlin, through a secretive office in Bermuda, to a U.S.-based nonprofit. From there, the funds go to an array of American environmentalist organizations that oppose U.S. energy independence. In other words, Green activists have advocated the very policies that fuel Vladimir Putin’s war machine and, in a fit of poetic justice, left-wingers who spent five years accusing conservatives of being Russian stooges find themselves exposed as Moscow’s mouthpieces.
The Left’s heroes warn of Russian environmentalist propaganda
For at least half of his time as Russia’s leader, Putin has been concerned about losing oil revenues, which account for 36% of Russia’s budget. The source of this statement is one not friendly to MAGA forces: Fiona Hill, the Russian affairs expert lauded by the legacy media for her role in the first Trump impeachment. She remembered Putin strenuously objecting to U.S. companies that practice hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) during a November 2011 meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club. “He started in 2011 making it very clear that he saw American fracking as a great threat to Russian interests,” Hill testified before Congress in 2019. “We were all struck by how much he stressed this issue. And since 2011, and since that particular juncture, Putin has made a big deal of this.”
Putin has personally denounced fracking, saying it “poses a huge environmental problem.” Regions where fracking occurs “no longer have water coming out of their taps but a blackish slime,” he alleged. But generally, Putin is content to direct the grand chess game from above, while others do the wet work. For instance, the Director of National Intelligence noted that in 2012 the Russian TV network RT ran “anti-fracking programming, highlighting environmental issues and the impacts on public health. This is likely reflective of the Russian Government’s concern about the impact of fracking and US natural gas production on the global energy market and the potential challenges to Gazprom’s profitability.”
Like everything else, Putin tested his strategy in other countries first, with dramatic success. One of his targets, then and now, was Ukraine (“which is thought to have large shale gas reserves, particularly in its war-ravaged east,” reported The New York Times in 2014). When Ukraine considered tapping those resources, Putin’s partisans sprang into action. “Pro-Russian separatists in the east, who have otherwise shown no interest in green issues, have denounced fracking as a mortal danger,” The Times said.
The cycle had already taken place in Bulgaria, which signed a shale gas contract with Chevron in 2012. Romania followed suit a year later, threatening Russia’s economic and geostrategic interests: In addition to the revenue, Russia can (and has) leveraged foreign nations by cutting off their energy deliveries. “Energy is the most effective weapon today of the Russian Federation — much more effective than aircraft and tanks,” then-Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta told The New York Times in 2014. “It is crucial for Russia to keep this energy dependence. It is playing a dirty game,” said Iulian Iancu, then a member of the Romanian Parliament.
Soon, both nations were overrun by well-organized, well-financed environmentalist activists, whose often-violent demonstrations scuttled both deals. Although the targeted nations could not prove it, they held Russia responsible. So did NATO.
“We don’t go into the details of discussions among allied leaders, but Russia has been using a mix of hard and soft power in its attempt to recreate a sphere of influence, including through a campaign of disinformation on many issues, including energy,” said one NATO official in 2014. “In general, the potential for Russia using energy supplies as a means of putting pressure on European nations is a matter of concern. No country should use supply and pricing terms as tools of coercion.”
Although the official said that conclusion was their own “interpretation,” NATO issued an official statement essentially confirming the broad strokes of that statement. “Clearly, it is in the interest of all NATO allies to be able to have adequate energy supplies,” NATO said. “We share a concern by some allies that Russia could try to obstruct possible projects on shale gas exploration in Europe in order to maintain Europe’s reliance on Russian gas.”
That assessment was amplified by another foe of fossil fuels: Hillary Rodham Clinton. In 2014, Clinton delivered a “private speech” in which she discussed Russia’s financial support for Western environmentalists. “We [the State Department and the U.S. government] were even up against phony environmental groups, and I’m a big environmentalist, but these were funded by the Russians to stand up against any effort, ‘Oh that pipeline, that fracking, that whatever will be a problem for you,’ and a lot of that money supporting that effort was coming from Russia,” Clinton reportedly said.
A team of conservative investigators have since begun documenting the money trail.
Funneling dark money to the Green movement
Suspected foreign funding of U.S. environmentalist groups came under congressional scrutiny nearly a decade ago. A 2014 Senate committee report drew attention to a little-known San Francisco-based nonprofit called the Sea Change Foundation, which was at the time “the sixth largest donor to environmental causes, giving $43,149,911 in grants to environmental and far-left environmental activists.” Its own source of revenue proved more controversial: It relied on donations from the family of founder Nat Simons — and tens of millions of dollars from Klein Ltd., an opaque, Bermuda-based company with deep ties to Russia. “It appears that Klein exists on paper only … and was set up for the sole purpose of funneling anonymous donations to Sea Change,” the 2014 Senate report stated.
Klein gave Sea Change $13 million in 2010 and $10 million in 2011. The Sea Change Foundation’s 990 forms do not appear to show donations from Klein Ltd. since that time, but the foundation’s assets more than doubled between 2011 and 2018, from $124 million to $293 million.
Little action took place, but investigators began tracing the arc of the Green movement’s “dark money” rainbow. Richard Berman’s Environmental Policy Alliance found that Klein Ltd. had been “formed by two employees of Wakefield Quin (WQ), a Bermuda law firm. … Both held directorship positions in a group, owned by Russian minister of telecommunications and longtime Putin friend Leonid Reiman, which was the subject of a 2008 money laundering case.” Furthermore, “Marcuard Spectrum, a Moscow-based investment firm, operates a hedge fund in Bermuda based out of WQ’s office.” Drawing on this new research, Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX) and his then-colleague Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) reiterated these concerns in a letter to then-Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin in 2017. Klein’s attorney denied any links to Russia, and the story again died.
Now that war rages between Russia and Ukraine, Americans have awakened to Russia’s propaganda game. On March 11 three Republican congressmen — Reps. Jim Banks (R-IN), Bill Johnson (R-OH), and Ted Budd (R-NC) — found another piece of the puzzle, writing to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen:
Sea Change then passed that money to groups like the Sierra Club and the Center for American Progress who lobbied strongly against fracking and pro-energy policies, to reduce competition with Russian oil and gas. In 2020, the Center for American Progress donated over $800,000 exclusively to Democrat politicians and groups and Sierra Club Independent Action spent $3.7 million supporting Democrat candidates.
“It is imperative that the Treasury Department investigate the claims of Russian interference in American domestic politics,” they wrote. “If Russian manipulation is confirmed in domestic anti-energy funding, we call on the Department of the Treasury to immediately partner with the Department of Justice in establishing a select committee to investigate illicit Russian influence operations.”
The charges demand a full investigation. But there’s no question that Russia (and China) would like nothing more than for the United States to stymie itself while the newly reunited Asian axis corners the surging global market.
At this point, a “ban on fracking could be viewed as an example of successful Russian espionage,” Ken Stiles, a 29-year CIA veteran, told The Daily Signal. “Whether these environmental groups realize it or not, they could be operating as what we [in the CIA] call ‘agents of influence.’ By working to block natural gas production, environmental activists are advancing policies that work to the advantage of Russia and to the disadvantage of America and America’s allies.”
The same could be said of Left-wing policies in virtually every realm. The intelligence community agrees that a major focus of Russian propaganda for nearly 100 years has been to divide Americans by race, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, class, and viewpoint. They also seek to delegitimize U.S. institutions and ultimately cause civil strife that results in violence.
On nearly every front — from promoting the divisive and Marxist-based Critical Race Theory, to supporting violent protesters, to questioning the legitimacy of the U.S. Supreme Court, to demanding U.S. nuclear disarmament and abandoning its own fossil fuel energy resources — the legacy media and the Democratic Party’s base largely have done and are doing the bidding of Russian propagandists. Congress must now determine if they are getting paid for it, as well.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.