Though Wikipedia tells us there’s no confirmed source within Lenin’s published works, the Soviet Union’s first chief bad guy is often credited with inventing the term “useful idiots” to describe those in Western countries who unwittingly advanced Soviet goals by supporting loopy lefty ideas.

The phrase came to mind for this observer while reading Eric Owens‘ latest article for the Daily Caller.

Russia is a lumbering failure of a country which has seen at least two coups d’etat in the last century. Its population is on a steady decline. Its annual gross-domestic product is on a par with Italy, a grossly inefficient country with less than half as many people and some 6.5 million fewer square miles.

However, the Russian government has a long, stellar reputation when it comes to meddling in the affairs of other nations. The latest effort at intervention appears to be an effort to thwart multinational energy corporations from engaging in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in Eastern European countries, reports The New York Times.

Romania, a member of the European Union, is widely believed to be among Russia’s primary targets for meddling.

Last year, rural and otherwise very obscure parts of Romania became a destination for zealous anti-fracking activists after Chevron, an American company, began exploratory drilling. Clashes between police and protesters became violent.

The same basic scene has also played out in Lithuania and Bulgaria. …

… Russia and Gazprom, the reasoning goes, desperately want to stop fracking in Eastern Europe because they want Eastern European countries to remain dependent on Russian energy. New sources of energy are bad news for the economic interests of Russian oligarchs and bad news for the Russian government, which would like to use energy policy to coerce nearby nations. …

… Russia does not have a long or impressive record of concern for the environment. However, the country’s leadership has expressed grave concerns about fracking.

The practice “poses a huge environmental problem,” Russian president Vladimir Putin has said, according to the Times. Moreover, he alleged, areas where fracking has occurred “no longer have water coming out of their taps but a blackish slime.”

Fracking also poses a huge economic problem for Russia. The country would benefit from higher oil prices. However, oil prices are in freefall thanks in large part to the effect of fracking on the petroleum industry.