Former NATO Commander: Russia Wages Social Media War Against Fracking, Oil Pipelines

Terence P. Jeffrey | March 26, 2018 | 5:34pm EDT
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Retired Gen. Philip Breedlove (Screen Capture)

( - Retired Gen. Philip Breedlove, who served as Supreme Allied Commander of NATO under President Barack Obama, testified in the House Armed Services Committee last week that the Russians waged what he called "hybrid war" through social media to stop fracking and oil pipelines in Western nations.

In making his point to the committee, Breedlove cited the same organization--the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg Russia--that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has indicted for interfering in the U.S. presidential election.

“They are instigating fights on both sides of things like oil pipelines and fracking in order to cause discord, disharmony, and to hopefully continue to suppress those efforts to keep oil prices up,” Breedlove told the committee in response to a question from Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R.-Mo.)

“And so the first step, I think, is making Americans aware that the Russians and the troll factory there in St. Petersburg, the Internet Research Agency, is out there orchestrating these battles in these spaces, and make our folks aware that when they go into their social media, they are getting an echo chamber of their own thoughts, they're really not seeing both sides,” said Breedlove in his March 21 testimony.

In written testimony, Breedlove told the committee that interference in the U.S. election was not the first or only example of the Russians using the Internet and social media—in what Breedlove calls “hybrid warfare”—in an attempt to turn political debates and public policy in Western nations toward Russian interests.

“It uses its vast energy resources to promote the dependence of its smaller neighbors, working to keep them in the Russian sphere of influence and preventing them from turning to the West,” said Breedlove. “In short, while the 2016 presidential election is the most notable case of Russian hybrid warfare, especially for Americans, it is not the only case of Russian hybrid warfare.”

During the hearing, Rep. Jody Hice (R.-Ga.) asked Breedlove to elaborate on this point. In responding, Breedlove said that Russia “attacks into countries like ours to prevent ventures like pipelines, fracking, other things that would tend to suppress the price of energy.”

“Russia has an elaborate, as you know, pipeline set up in Eastern Europe, Western Russia in order to be very good at this moving gas around. And, so, it is a tool they can use,” said Breedlove.

“And, then, what I mentioned also in the testimony, in the Q&A, is that Russia of course is very keen on keeping the price of oil up because it is very much an oil dependent economy,” said Breedlove, “and so it attacks into countries like ours to prevent ventures like pipelines, fracking--other things that would tend to suppress the price of energy--and so they are very keen to try to influence governments like ours in that respect.”

According to the CIA’s World Factbook, Russia ranked No. 1 in the world in the production of crude oil (estimated for 2016), followed by No. 2 Saudi Arabia, and No. 3 the United States.

By contrast, Russia ranked No. 2 in the world in the production of natural gas (estimated for 2015), trailing the United States which ranked No. 1, but leading Iran, which ranked No. 3.

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