Nord Stream Leaks: Who Benefits From Busted Russian Gas Pipelines?

S Rajesh

Sep 30, 2022, 10:31 PM | Updated 10:31 PM IST

Nord Stream
Nord Stream

Russia’s Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipelines are leaking gas into the Baltic Sea.

Context: At noon local time on 27 September, Denmark’s armed forces released footage of leaks in the Baltic Sea.

  • Earlier, maritime seismic monitors belonging to the Swedish Maritime Administration and Danish Maritime Authority registered mysterious submarine explosions.

  • The explosions and leaks turned out to be coming from the same area.

An accident? Scandinavian seismological experts and political leaders agree that the explosions were a deliberate act.

Who could have set off the explosions? The name begins with ‘U’ and ends with ‘S’.

  • The reasoning behind this claim is that the US benefits most from it.

  • As winter approaches, Europe is beginning to rethink its commitment to the Ukraine war.

  • Pipeline sabotage has ensured there is no way for countries like Germany to back out now.

  • Any chance to phase out sanctions against Russia no longer exists, as no gas can be supplied after the pipelines have been damaged.

Oddly enough, a former Polish foreign minister — a strong supporter of Ukraine — tweeted “Thank you, USA” along with a picture of the accident site.

And why isn’t Russia responsible? Many believe Russia sabotaged the pipelines. Emma Ashford of the think tank Stimson Centre makes the case. Possible reasons for Russian involvement:

  • Putin was, perhaps, signalling that he can damage European energy infrastructure at will and might do so in the future.

  • Putin was tying his own hands, and that of any future Russian leader, by making it harder to back down from the war in Ukraine, even in the face of Western concessions.

  • Putin was creating force majeure: a legal basis to avoid lawsuits against Gazprom for failure to supply gas to Europe.

  • It was Russia, but not Putin. That is, hawks carried this out to prevent Putin from backing down. (Pretty improbable.)

However… Here’s what former British ambassador Craig Murray had to say, in a tweet:

>> “The Nordstream 2 pipeline allows Russia to send gas to Western Europe without paying transit fees to Ukraine and Poland. Russia just completed it in the teeth of massive opposition from Ukraine, Poland and USA. Now they are trying to convince you it was Russia who blew it up🤣🤣”

Perhaps, neither the US nor Russia did it? In that case, there are other possibilities, though all fairly unlikely.

  • The Ukrainians. It makes logical sense — Nord Stream has always undermined Ukrainian interests, and Ukraine doesn't want Euro states to back down this winter. But it’s unclear if they have the capabilities, and the risk of backlash, if revealed, is extreme.

  • Poland or the Baltic states. These are states most committed to the war and want to undermine Germany's influence. Again, the backlash would be extreme. Plus, these states have to know the US would likely find out.

Coincidentally, just when the Nord Stream pipelines were sabotaged, the new Norway-Poland Baltic pipeline opened. 

  • This is a pipeline whose purpose is cutting European dependence on Russian energy supplies.

  • Should be noted, though, that this pipeline was in construction for a long time and the coincidence is most likely just… coincidence.

BTW, a leak in a pipe with no transit? Some people are raising the point that Nord Stream 2 had no flow.

  • Well, the leakage is mostly from Nord Stream 1. 

  • The pipe is 100 metres underwater. It had to be filled or else the pressure would have destroyed it.

  • Therefore, it was filled with Methane gas (this is the gas which is leaking now) to keep it from cracking under water.

  • The gas was not flowing, but simply stored there.

S Rajesh is Staff Writer at Swarajya.

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