European countries have said that they will be ramping up security around oil and gas installations after the suspected sabotage of two major pipelines.
The EU, US and Nato have all suggested damage to the pipelines between Russia and Germany was deliberate, but have so far stopped short of blaming Russia directly.
The Nord Stream pipelines run through the Baltic to transport gas from Russia to Germany. Neither pipeline was operating, but both were filled with gas. The Danish and Swedish governments believe that the leaks off their countries were “deliberate actions.”
Russia’s two Nord Stream pipelines leak into the Baltic Sea, causing concern in Europe
Before the leaks were reported, explosions were recorded. A first explosion was recorded by seismologists early Monday southeast of the Danish island of Bornholm. A second, stronger blast northeast of the island that night was equivalent to a magnitude-2.3 earthquake. Seismic stations in Denmark, Norway and Finland also registered the explosions.
Some European officials and energy experts have said Russia is likely to blame for any sabotage — it directly benefits from higher energy prices and economic anxiety across Europe — although others cautioned against pointing fingers until investigators are able to determine what happened.
‘Some kind of deliberate attack’
The European Union has now joined a growing chorus of government officials, as well as experts and observers, saying the explosions were all but certainly the result of some kind of deliberate attack.
A British media report today indicated that officials in that country are increasingly convinced that the Russian government is responsible, possibly using uncrewed underwater vehicles to plant explosives.
The first reports that something was amiss came earlier this week, when at least three separate gas pipeline leaks were detected in the Baltic Sea. Two of these were traced to portions of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which has been in use since 2011.
The other was found to be coming from Nord Steam 2, which was finished last year, but has not yet started normal operations.
All three leaks are in international waters, but are within areas that Denmark and Sweden claim as part of their Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ).
Danish authorities subsequently established a five-mile maritime exclusion zone, as well as a smaller no-fly zone, around the leaks.
“The European Union is deeply concerned about damage to the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines that has resulted in leaks in the international waters of the Baltic Sea,” Josep Borrell Fontelles, the European Union’s (EU) High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said in a statement today on behalf of the entire economic bloc.
“All available information indicates those leaks are the result of a deliberate act. We will support any investigation aimed at getting full clarity on what happened and why, and will take further steps to increase our resilience in energy security.”
Energy – Moscow’s leverage over Europe
While there is no evidence that Russia was behind the pipeline leaks, it does serve as a reminder of the critical role played by Russian energy supplies in relations between East and West.
As long as tensions over Moscow’s war in Ukraine continue, the issue of Europe’s gas supply is likely to be prominent. Whatever was responsible for breaching Nord Stream 1 and 2, the incident sends a clear message about the vulnerability of such infrastructure and, in turn, the vulnerability of Europe’s energy supply.
It seems highly probable that other energy infrastructure in Europe will now also be placed on high alert.