December 8, 2022

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Q + Nord Stream gas “sabotage”: who is to blame and why?

Q + Nord Stream gas “sabotage”: who is to blame and why?

WARSAW (Reuters) – Big leaks suddenly erupted in Nord Stream gas pipelines that run from Russia to Europe under the Baltic Sea have led to plenty of theories but few clear answers about who or what caused the damage.

Here’s what we know and what has been said so far:

Who is to blame?

So far, most governments and officials have avoided direct finger pointing, although some have made stronger hints than others.

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European Union countries say they believe the damage was caused by sabotage, but stop short of naming anyone. Fatih Birol, head of the International Energy Agency, said who was behind it was “very clear” but did not say who it was.

The Kremlin said the allegations of Russian responsibility were “stupid” and Russian officials said Washington had a motive because it wanted to sell more LNG to Europe.

President Vladimir Putin described the incident as “unprecedented sabotage” and an “act of international terrorism”, while Russian intelligence chief Sergei Naryshkin said the West was doing “everything in its power” to cover up the perpetrators.

The White House denied the accusations that he was responsible.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said it was too early to point the finger and that a full investigation was needed. “In terms of the attack – or the damage to the pipeline at this point I think there is a lot of speculation,” he said.

European and Moscow leaders say they cannot rule out sabotage. Map of Nord Stream pipelines and locations of reported leaks

WHY SABOTAGE PIPELINE?

In its Monday edition, German Navy Commander Jan Christian Kak told Germany’s Die Welt newspaper that leaks were found on the day although he had apparently been speaking before: “Russia has also built a large underwater capacity. At the bottom of the Baltic Sea , but also in Atlantic, there is a great deal of critical infrastructure such as IT pipelines or submarine cables.”

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Besides Nord Stream, a new pipeline has been built between gas-producing Norway and Poland, which seeks to end its dependence on Russian energy, making the region highly sensitive to Europe’s energy security.

said Christine Berzina, senior fellow in security and defense at the German Marshall Fund.

However, if it was an act of sabotage, it damaged the pipelines built by Gazprom, which is controlled by the Kremlin. (GAZP.MM) and its European partners at a cost of billions of dollars.

Analysts say the damage also means Russia is losing an element of influence over Europe, which has been racing to find another gas supply for the winter, even if Nord Stream pipelines don’t pump gas when the leaks are discovered.

Whoever is to blame or whoever, Ukraine may also be the beneficiary. Kyiv has long called on Europe to stop all purchases of Russian fuel – although some gas still flows into Europe through its territory. Nord Stream’s disruption brings Kyiv’s call for a full Russian fuel embargo closer to reality.

HOW CAN NORD STREAM BE DAMAGED?

Experts say the scale of the damage and the fact that the leaks are far apart on two different pipelines indicate that the act was intentional and well coordinated.

Seismologists in Denmark and Sweden said they recorded two powerful explosions on Monday in the vicinity of the leaks and that the explosions were in the water, not under the sea floor.

A British defense source told Sky News that the attack may have been premeditated and was detonated from afar using underwater mines or other explosives.

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“Something big caused those explosions, which means … that Russia could do it. Theoretically the United States could do it but I don’t really see the motive there,” Oliver Alexander, an open source intelligence analyst, told Reuters.

He said the United States had long called on Europe to end its dependence on Russian gas, but Washington had no clear motive to act now because Nord Stream was no longer pumping gas to Europe at the time the leaks were discovered, even though pipelines were present. . The gas is under pressure inside.

“They really did stop Nord Stream 2. He was already dead in the water, he wasn’t going anywhere,” he said.

Analysts say the damage was likely caused by hardware available in the commercial market, but given the scale and accuracy, it was more likely to have been done by an actor with access to more sophisticated technology.

Russia says it believes a state actor is involved.

“It is very difficult to imagine that such a terrorist act could have taken place without some kind of state intervention,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. “This is a very serious situation that requires an urgent investigation,” he added.

And the American news channel CNN, quoting three sources, reported that European security officials noticed leaks of ships and submarines of the Russian Navy not far from Nord Stream sites. When asked about the report, Peskov said there was a greater NATO presence in the region.

what happened after that?

At Russia’s request, the UN Security Council will meet on Friday to discuss the damage to the pipelines, while the Europeans continue their investigations.

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Right now, direct finger pointing between Russia and the West could exacerbate tensions already heightened by the war in Ukraine, said Marek Swerczynski, a defense analyst at Polish think tank Polityka Insight.

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Reuters office reports, with additional reporting by Sabine Siebold; Editing by Alexander Smith and Edmund Blair

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.