Putin’s Useful Idiots

PutinWonder why Russia has Europe over a barrel? Ask German Environmentalists 

By William Yeatman

It is said that Vladimir Lenin once called Soviet sympathizers in Western countries “useful idiots” for unwittingly advancing the cause of revolutionary Russia. Were the Bolshevik leader alive today, he might apply the same label to German environmentalists, whose influence over their country’s energy policy has been an inadvertent, but essential factor in Moscow’s post-Cold War rise.

Two decades of stringent environmental regulations have made Germany, Europe’s largest economy, increasingly dependent on natural gas from Russia, the world’s largest exporter. Of course, economic leverage translates seamlessly into political power, and Russia’s sway over German foreign policy has been conspicuous as the recent imbroglio in Georgia has continued to play out.

In fact, Germany has the means to power its economy without Russian natural gas, so energy dependence is unnecessary. For starters, it is home to the largest reserves of coal in Europe. But thanks to the European Union’s marquee climate-change mitigation policy—the continent-wide Emission Trading Scheme—the economics of power production have shifted decidedly against coal because its combustion releases the most greenhouse gases of any conventional fuel source.

Given that coal is currently taboo, Germany could meet its energy needs by expanding the use of nuclear energy, which emits no carbon dioxide when used to generate electricity. Yet the environmental movement in Germany opposes nuclear energy because its waste is difficult and dangerous to store. In 2000, environmentalists won passage of the Nuclear Exit Law, which commits German utilities to phasing out nuclear power by 2020.

Rather than coal or nuclear, the environmental movement prefers sustainable sources of power such as wind and solar, and it has convinced the German government to grant generous subsidies to the renewable energy industry. But despite these investments, renewables are still too costly to displace conventional energy sources, which is why wind and solar power account for less than 2 percent of Germany’s primary energy production, according to government figures.

That leaves natural gas, which is cleaner than coal and less expensive than alternative energy. Germany is fortunate to have large deposits of gas—more than 9 trillion cubic feet—most of which is thought to lie beneath the northwestern state of Niedersachsen. Environmental regulations, however, have limited exploration and development in the region.

To meet its demand for energy, Germany turned to Gazprom, a state-owned company that has a legal monopoly on natural gas exports from Russia. Natural gas currently accounts for almost a quarter of all the energy consumed in Germany, including all electricity in homes, gasoline in cars, and coal for industrial boilers. That’s up 40 percent since 1991. And Gazprom now supplies 40 percent of all natural gas consumption in Germany, an increase of 55 percent over the same period.

Currently, almost 40 percent of Germany’s domestic gas consumption comes from Russia. That share is likely to increase with the construction of the Northern Pipeline, a project to be completed in 2010 that would link Russian gas directly to Central European markets.

It’s little wonder, then, that German Chancellor Angela Merkel was the first major world leader to pay a visit to new Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Or that at last spring’s NATO summit in Romania, German diplomats orchestrated the opposition to U.S. President George W. Bush’s plan for expanding the trans-Atlantic military alliance to include Georgia and Ukraine. Before the summit, Russian officials had warned that NATO expansion would cause a “deep crisis,” and provoke a “response” from Russia.

Read the rest of this story at Foreign Policy.

12 Responses to Putin’s Useful Idiots

  1. Flanagan October 9, 2008 at 3:33 am #

    Strangely enough, no word on how the use of petroleum makes nearly every country in the world depend on a few producers. This includes the US, depending on Arabic oil. Don’t forget that the richest countries are the ones having large sources of fossil fuels…

    Only those countries which are developping alternate sources of energy will be able to escape this huge sphere of influence. This includes Germany, this time.

    About the nuclear possibiilty: if it is so smart, then why is the American governement not trying to develop it? My best choice would be fusion – but we’re quite far fom it rightnow. Besides, the leading countries in this direction are European (once again).

  2. Rob N. Hood October 9, 2008 at 7:33 am #

    Ah, the old canard. An oldie but goodie, I guess. Buck the staus quo and you get labled a communist sypmathizer, or a Socialist (although two completely different things). Dan, you must be really old to keep pulling this one out of the old conservative barrel of mud. You miss the cold war don’cha? You can’t use the war on terror, ‘cuz it stems from Saudi Arabia, and they are our best buds- all thanks to our good friend Oil.

  3. Dan McGrath October 9, 2008 at 8:43 am #

    I don’t miss the cold war one bit, but I fear we may be slipping back into that precarious position. Energy is being used as a weapon.

    What seems to be missed is that Global Warming isn’t about science at all. It’s strictly about political ideology. Just look at the polls on who believes what on Global Warming. 90% of Democrats believe man is the prime mover in Global Warming, while most Republicans don’t buy that. The left is adamant that the science is settled, and the only solution is crippling our ability to produce energy and radically reforming our economy (to a tightly government-controlled socialist model).

    The adherants to AGW theory have taken their belief to a near religious level with faith that won’t be shaken by any facts that contradict their belief. This is because the goal is a social-economic outcome, not control over the Earth’s climate. With such objectives, the truth of the science doesn’t really matter – only convinving others that the science is true.

    Looking at how the arguements on global warming break down, it should be obvious that it’s a purely political wedge.

  4. Rob N. Hood October 9, 2008 at 10:09 am #

    Are you suggesting that our current government is not tightly controlled/controlling?! It has never been more so. The rich elite don’t want you or me off the Grid, man, wake up. There’s nothing to fear from alternatives. And nothing to lose, really, except our addiction and dependence upon foreign oil. Maybe you are an American subversive intent on your own special brand of socialism or captialistic fascism??

  5. Dan McGrath October 9, 2008 at 1:35 pm #

    I’m intent on not getting ripped off. For me, this is strictly a matter of self-defense.

  6. Neil F. October 16, 2008 at 5:29 am #

    Myth: The most oil imported into the U.S. is from the Middle East.
    Fact: The most oil imported into the U.S. is from Canada. 2nd is Saudi Arabia, 3rd is Mexico. There is only one Middle Eastern country in the the top five.
    See here.
    Always question your own beliefs, even your strongest beliefs. It is the only way to be sure that you are not being fooled. Write that down.

  7. Flanagan October 17, 2008 at 5:11 am #

    Myth: Rob and I wrote that Arabic countries are the largest oil importators in the US.
    Fact: you are distorting reality to look more informed and relevant.

    So we only stated that US strongly (55%) depends on oil importation from only a few countries, among which Arabic ones (yes, yes, read it again).

    What is really funny is the names you can find on that list. Of course, direct neighbors are first, then you find countries where – what a surprise – the US have been involved in the emergence of “new” politics.

  8. Rob N. Hood October 17, 2008 at 8:06 am #

    To Neil: Canadian and Mexican oil IS foreign oil. And dependence IS dependence no matter the source. So maybe you should question YOUR beliefs, dude. The true cost of oil… is hidden in plain sight:

    The US government spends as much as $215 billion each year on military action globally to defend Big Oil’s access to petroleum reserves around the globe in order to feed our addiction to oil, according to a new analysis published this week by the National Priorities Project.

  9. rusty r. October 17, 2008 at 10:41 pm #

    oil is is used for SO much more than fooling feeble-minded conservatives who would vote for an orangutan if karl rove came on fox news and said to.

    for example — it was cheny’s insistence on topping off the “strategic reserve” with light sweet crude which created a severe diesel shortage WORLD WIDE and set off the now-collapsing spike in gas prices.


    so numbskull bible thumpers could blog, “see — we gotta have MORE domestic oil exploration, we should burn up all OUR oil FIRST and let the rest of the world SAVE THEIRS!!!”

    beside, where else will dick and his friends find enough cash to steal another election?

    it was a typically cynical and as usual heartless manipulation of your no-doubt sadly sincere belief in their godliness.

    tough luck for all us that fools like you actually TRUST A MAD MAN– as it was republican DESPERATION in august of 2007 for an election issue to run on that set off this total economic collapse.

    and which RIGHTFULLY landed the vice president of darkness in the hospital with wild heart palpitations and perhaps obama in the white house.

    of course dan the man will soon be supporting the suspension of all civil liberties ON THIS VERY SITE once bush orders the military against the nation’s own citizens because the results of the 2008 vote are announced on fox to be yet another “fraud” — just like global warming.

    sorry all of us that are so many clueless fools like you,


  10. Dan McGrath October 20, 2008 at 12:42 pm #

    Ordinarily comments like “Rusty’s” above don’t make it past moderation, but I thought I’d let this one through to serve as an example of how not to comment here. Plus, sometimes it’s enlightening to peek into the thoughts of a truly committed enviro-socialist.

    Future rants like this won’t see the light of day here. Try to be more thoughtful than “Rusty-Tusty” and stick to the issues being discussed when commenting.

  11. Rob N. Hood October 22, 2008 at 11:20 am #

    Way to go Rusty, you evil doer!

  12. Tony June 10, 2009 at 4:37 pm #

    Putin you couldn’t make him up, try……………..see you can’t scary, Europe has sold itself with out realising

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