At the beginning of the week, massive leaks were registered from them, which seismologists later identified as explosions, and then the European Commission, Germany, and Denmark announced that it was most likely sabotage.
The only country that publicly announced what many people suspected was Ukraine. From there, they directly accused Russia of a terrorist attack, with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s adviser, Mykhailo Podoliak, believing that Moscow’s aim was to cause panic in Europe before winter.
All the other players, including the most affected, led by Germany, reacted much more selectively and announced that they were starting investigations into the explosions and the version of sabotage.
Investigations into what happened are underway in Denmark and Sweden, whose territories are closest to the site of the attacks, and the leaks are in the Danish and Swedish economic zones in the Baltic Sea off the island of Bornholm.
The pipes are at a depth of 70-80 meters on the sea floor, and because of the huge gas leak, on-site inspections can begin in a week at the earliest, or when the blue fuel stops leaking into the sea.
One of the unofficial versions is that divers may have placed explosives on both pipes of Nord Stream 1 and one of the two pipes of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. Due to the complexity of the operation, experts believe that the attack can only be carried out with the help of a specific country.
Both Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 do not carry gas – the former was shut down by Gazprom for repairs that were never completed, and the latter did not begin operations as it was completed shortly before the war in Ukraine. However, in both gas pipelines, which have a total of three pipes, there was gas still leaking into the Baltic Sea.
The damage to both pipelines is so severe that German security authorities believe they may be rendered inoperable. The operator Nord Stream has already announced that they cannot predict a time frame in which the pipes will be restored. And if this is prolonged, corrosion from the salty seawater can destroy them completely.
Russia has categorically denied blowing up its gas pipelines and suspects sabotage. “This is quite predictable, and also predictably stupid,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said when asked if the Kremlin was behind the attacks.
“This is a big problem for us because both lines of Nord Stream 2 are full of gas – the whole system is ready to pump gas, and gas is costly… Now it is flying into the air,” explained Peskov.
The Kremlin passed the ball to the USA – both Peskov and Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova announced that US President Joe Biden must answer the question of whether the US has carried out its threat to “end Nord Stream” and whether Washington sympathizes with recent pipeline accidents.
“No one is interested in attacks or sabotage,” commented US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken. According to him, no significant effect on Europe’s energy security is expected.
Fact – gas pipelines that Europe currently does not rely on will be destroyed. In addition to Nord Stream, Russia supplies gas to Europe through the Turkish Stream, which also passes through Bulgaria, and through lines through Ukraine. The flow through Ukraine is also limited because of the war, and because of a dispute with “Gazprom”, it may be stopped.
Therefore, in parallel with the investigation of what happened, politicians and security experts must also answer the question of why Russia would sabotage its own gas pipelines.
On the one hand, they do not work, as in the case of Nord Stream 1, it is a choice of Moscow itself. Europe is already under pressure without the pipelines being destroyed, and Russia doesn’t rely on money from gas sales anyway.
That is, with attacks on the pipelines, Russia has no way to exert pressure and deprive Europe of something that it does not generally get.
On the other hand, after the attacks, natural gas prices rose again, which should also benefit Russia. Moreover, such an attack could simply be to intimidate and stoke tensions at a time when Europe is debating another package of sanctions and the Kremlin is about to annex parts of Ukraine.
However, there are also concerns about energy flows through pipelines that are actually being used, and even about entering a new possible phase of the war that is currently being fought in Ukraine.
Norway, which is becoming an increasingly large and major supplier of gas to Europe, will strengthen security at both its onshore and offshore gas and oil production facilities, the country’s energy ministry said after the explosions on the North stream”.
What’s more, this is necessary after days ago unidentified drones were detected flying over coastal gas and oil platforms. The Norwegian Petroleum Safety Agency has received a number of warnings from operating companies about such drones near offshore work stations, including within safety zones.
Denmark is also increasing the protection of its energy sector, although there are no concerns about the Baltic Sea. “Russia has a significant military presence in the Baltic region and we expect them to continue rattling their weapons,” commented Defense Minister Morten Bodskov.
The Minister of Economy of Germany, Robert Habeck, admitted that there is a danger of new sabotages. “Critical infrastructure is a potential target,” he said.
And, coincidentally or not, the pipeline leaks were discovered just before an alternative gas pipeline from Norway to Poland was opened, which also runs through the Baltic Sea, near the stricken Nord Stream pipes.
At the opening of the “Baltic Gas Pipeline”, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki called what happened “sabotage” and said that this might be “a new step in the escalation of the war in Ukraine.”
According to the American edition “Politico”, if the suspicions that Russia is behind this are confirmed or only strengthened, then Europe may find itself facing a new front of the war, the target of which is its underwater energy and communication infrastructure. This could lead to a direct confrontation with the Russian navy.
Britain, for example, has long claimed that Russian submarines in the Atlantic and other northern waters could cut off essential cables for the continent’s Internet connection – accusations that, against the background of the explosions in the Baltic Sea, no longer seem so absurd.
“If something like this happens to the gas pipeline from Norway or from Algeria this winter, we will have a huge problem. We need to increase the security of critical energy infrastructure because adversaries could repeat similar actions,” Simone Taliapietra from Tink told Politico. – tank group “Bruegel”.