But Rasmussen’s assertion is that alongside the grassroots movement, there is something nefarious afoot:

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. 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.

As well as its strategic aims, such a Russian intelligence operation might also include an element of pay-back. In 2011, Putin accused the US of funding protests against his rule, and the following year he attacked Western-funded NGOs specifically. Two months ago, Putin accused Western NGOs of funding “nationalist and neo-Nazi groups” in Ukraine.

It’s true that Western NGOs have sought to pluralize Russian society and loosen Putin’s tight grip on power. Now, by apparently responding in kind, Putin is sending a message that he intends to remain a potent political and economic force in Europe for some time to come.

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