Understanding Russian Energy Disinformation
A Conversation with Alan Riley
On January 9, CEPA hosted a roundtable discuss on Russian disinformation in the energy sector featuring insights from Alan Riley, senior fellow at the Institute for Statecraft. The conversation was moderated by CEPA Executive Vice President Réka Szemerkényi with comments from CEPA President Peter B. Doran.
From the very creation of the Russian gas network in Soviet times, the Kremlin and its agencies have run a disinformation operation to support the state’s leverage in the energy sector. With the collapse of the USSR, calibrated narratives—and specifically in the energy arena—have become much more extensive and multi-leveled. An initial aim was to maintain Russian energy sales across the former Warsaw Pact territories. Following the entry of CEE states into the European Union, the disinformation tool kit took on new objectives. This included efforts to slow down the liberalization of the energy market, frustrate the establishment of new infrastructure linking CEE markets to other sources of supply, or dissuade customers from inking non-Russian contracts. The arrival of U.S. energy companies prospecting potential shale plays prompted successful Russian info ops to halt the development of that resource base. More recently, a new disinformation operation has focused on supporting the development of the Nordstream 2 pipeline. What’s old is new again—only this time the stakes are even greater for transatlantic energy cooperation.
During the experts discussion, participants considered: what are kinds of disinformation techniques Russia uses in support of Nordstream 2; how does this represent a pattern break from previous efforts to influence public opinion; and what can supporters of supply diversification in Europe do to ensure that energy is never again used as a political weapon against consumers?