The two Nord Stream pipelines are offshore pipelines running under the Baltic Sea that carry natural gas from Russia to Germany and the European Union at large. Nord Stream 1 is a key vessel for bringing Russian gas supplies to the EU, accounting for more than a third of Europe’s overall Russian gas imports last year.
On Tuesday, Swedish authorities announced that the pipelines were leaking due to what they believed was a “deliberate action.” Seismologists detected a series of underwater explosions near the pipelines on Monday that may have been related to the leaks.
Neither of them were actively transporting gas to Europe at the time of the attacks. Gas flows through Nord Stream 1 were shut off weeks ago, while Nord Stream 2 never really got off the ground as Germany stopped the project following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine right before it was set to become operational. However, the pipelines did still contain gas under pressure.
So far, four leaks have been found in Sweden and Denmark, and it is not out of the question that others will be discovered.
In a statement, NATO wrote: "All currently available information indicates that this is the result of deliberate, reckless, and irresponsible acts of sabotage." They added that the leaks are causing significant damage to the environment as well as shipping.
Who was responsible for this act? There is a lot of finger-pointing going on, and some of it is directed at the U.S. For example, former Polish Defense Minister Radek Sikorski recently tweeted “Thank you, USA” with a photo of the leak.
Sikorski, who is now an elected member of the European Parliament, followed the tweet with another one criticizing Russia and claiming the purpose of the pipelines was to give Russian President Vladimir Putin some leverage in wars with Eastern Europe. Although it is not fully clear from his tweets, many observers believe that his "Thank you, USA" comment was sincere in light of the language in his other posts.
Adding fuel to the fire are comments made a few weeks ahead of the conflict in Ukraine by U. S. President Joe Biden. He told reporters that if Russia were to follow through with its expected invasion of Ukraine, the U.S. would take steps to ensure that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline never becomes operational.
In an exchange on February 7, Biden said: “If Russia invades… then there will be no longer a Nord Stream 2. We will bring an end to it.”
A reporter then asked: “But how will you do that, exactly, since…the project is in Germany’s control?”
Biden replied: “I promise you, we will be able to do that.”
U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland made a similar promise on January 27, stating: “If Russia invades Ukraine, one way or another, Nord Stream 2 will not move forward.”
There is some speculation that the goal of sabotaging the pipeline could be to spur the collapse of Western Europe to protect the dollar’s dominance. Of course, there are also plenty of reasons the U.S. would not want to sabotage the pipeline, but the same can also be said of Russia.
While some have put forth the idea that Russia attacked its own pipelines, Russia could have restricted the flows of natural gas in other ways that do not involve blowing up $20 billion dollar pipelines that serve as their only direct means of exporting gas to Germany.
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