Who Sabotaged the Nord Stream Pipelines? - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Who Sabotaged the Nord Stream Pipelines?

On Monday, Danish and Swedish seismologists measured what they say were explosions along the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines, which bring Russian gas to Germany and the rest of Western Europe. Those explosions released and probably will continue to release a substantial amount of gas from the pipelines.

Those seismologists said that the explosions were not in the seabed but above it. That means someone attacked the pipelines. Both NATO and the European Union blamed the probable attacks on sabotage. Josep Borrell, the EU’s de facto foreign minister, gave forth an enormous harrumph, saying, “Any deliberate disruption of European energy infrastructure is utterly unacceptable and will be met with a robust and united response.”

In EU terms, such a response would consist of a nasty letter and maybe some insulting tweets.

Ukraine has already accused the Russians of damaging their own pipelines, and, of course, Russia denies doing so. A Ukrainian presidential adviser tweeted: “Gas leak from NS-1 [Nord Stream 1] is nothing more than a terrorist attack planned by Russia and an act of aggression towards the EU. Russia wants to destabilize the economic situation in Europe and cause pre-winter panic.”

At a Wednesday press conference, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied Russian responsibility, saying that such accusations were “predictable and also predictably stupid.”

The facts we have are pretty sparse. Because the explosions were above the seabed, they were not caused by a seismic event. Someone committed a fairly sophisticated attack on the pipelines, which are buried 80–110 meters below sea level and are each constructed of 48-inch steel partially encased in concrete sections spaced along the seabed.

So what nation is the most likely suspect?

Take it for granted that no submarine launched a torpedo to blow up sections of the pipelines. The damage would be much greater (even if the torpedo didn’t explode) and telltale evidence of the shot would be left behind.

Anyone who was able to get divers to that level below the water could have placed a small explosive charge against the pipe and detonated it at leisure. The Baltic waters — warmed by the Gulf Stream current — are not cold enough to prevent divers from reaching the pipeline for a short time. Or, using a remotely piloted undersea vehicle, a small explosive charge could have been placed against the pipeline and then detonated.

However the explosive was planted, because water is incompressible, the explosive force would have been directed entirely against the pipe. Even a 5- or 10-pound explosive charge would have been enough to substantially damage the pipeline.

Many nations have the capability to mount such an attack.

So, the question boils down, as it always does, to who benefits from the disruption of Russia’s supply of gas to Europe.

Russia had already stopped the flow of gas to Europe in both Nord Stream pipelines, protesting EU nations — particularly Germany — that are supplying arms to Ukraine.

Neither Germany nor any of the other EU nations would benefit. They are facing a bleak, cold winter that, without Russian gas, will result in a lot of unheated homes and businesses. Gas prices in Germany have already risen to about $486 (500 euros) per megawatt-hour for homeowners due to Russia’s temporary (?) cutoff of supplies through the Nord Stream pipelines.

Germany’s export economy is dependent on energy supplies. Russia’s economy is also an export economy, dependent on oil and gas exports to finance Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine. Putin’s cutoff of gas supplies to Europe hurts both economies, but it hurts Europe’s far more than Russia’s.

Russia’s denial of responsibility for the pipeline attacks cuts both ways. Putin is clearly capable of attacking and damaging the pipelines in order to give himself a diplomatic excuse for not resuming the flow of gas to Europe, but why would he bother? Putin has not been shy in cutting off the gas supplies to Europe without such an excuse.

On the other hand, Russia’s denial is, in Cold War terms, the rough equivalent of an admission of responsibility.

There is a lot of submarine and anti-submarine activity in the Baltic Sea. On the cruise from which my wife and I just returned, the ship’s captain bragged that Swedish subs, because they are so silent, are used by U.S. subs for practice in tracking enemy subs. The Russians also have a substantial submarine presence in the Baltic Sea.

The sections of the pipelines that were the target of the attacks were reportedly about 246 feet below the surface. Surface ships conducting such attacks would probably have been spotted, but divers or remote vehicles released from one or more Russian subs likely would not have been.

The pipelines can be repaired, but not quickly. Damage has to be assessed and repairs planned accordingly. Underwater welding requires enormous skill, especially where natural gas is present. The pipelines will have to be shut down for repairs. The Baltic can be a very rough sea in winter, meaning that the repairs likely won’t be accomplished for months.

Germany, Sweden, the United States, and other NATO nations would not have attacked the pipelines. There has been some speculation among U.S. conservatives that we were responsible for the pipeline attacks. That’s clearly wrong for two reasons.

First, we have no motive for doing so, despite President Joe Biden’s February statement claiming: “If Russia invades Ukraine … there will be no longer a Nord Stream 2. We will bring an end to it.”

Destroying Nord Stream 2 only hurts our European allies. There’s no reason to do so.

Second, Biden is too gun-shy to order any such strike. He and Secretary of State Antony Blinken would certainly consult with Germany and France before doing so, and they would have vetoed the move.

We may never know which nation did it, but Russia is — despite its protestations — the most likely suspect.

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