Nord Stream: After pipeline leaks, critical infrastructure comes into focus

Nord Stream 1 and 2
After leaks in gas pipelines: EU interior commissioner speaks of “attack” and announces stress tests

EU Interior Commissioner Ylva Johansson assumes that an attack on the gas pipelines was carried out

EU Interior Commissioner Ylva Johansson assumes that an attack on the gas pipelines was carried out

© Kenzo Tribouillard / AFP

The decisive question remains who is behind the leaks in the Nord Stream 1 and 2 Baltic Sea pipelines. But another aspect comes into focus: how safe are Germany and Europe from attacks on critical infrastructure?

EU Interior Commissioner Ylva Johansson has the alleged sabotage of the Baltic Sea pipelines North Stream 1 and 2 as a warning call and announced a stress test for critical infrastructure in Europe. “We (the EU Commission) will now contact all member states and we will carry out a stress test in relation to the critical infrastructure,” said the Swede on Wednesday evening in the ZDF “heute journal”. In view of the leaks in the pipelines, she spoke of an “attack” that was an “escalation” and “a threat”. “As far as I can tell, it is a very intelligent attack that cannot have been carried out by a normal group of people,” said the Commissioner. The risk is great that a state is behind it. “Of course we have our suspicions. But it’s too early to make a final judgement.”

US State Department spokesman Ned Price was similarly cautious about possible causes of the pipeline leaks. “We currently have more questions than answers.” The US government does not want to make any assumptions about possible backers of a sabotage action until investigations into the natural gas pipelines have been completed.

Three leaks in Nord Stream 1 and 2

On the night of Monday, a sharp drop in pressure was initially detected in one of the two tubes of the unused Nord Stream 2 pipeline. Later, the Nord Stream 1 operator reported a drop in pressure in these two tubes as well. Danish authorities finally discovered a total of three leaks in the two pipelines. Already on Tuesday, several countries brought an attack on the European gas infrastructure into play as the cause of the unprecedented damage. The EU and NATO assume sabotage. On Wednesday, the Kremlin dismissed speculation that Russia was involved in the damage to the pipelines as “stupid and absurd”.

The Russian Prosecutor General’s Office has meanwhile opened a case of international terrorism. Moscow justified the step by saying that the damage to the pipelines had “inflicted considerable economic damage on Russia”.

Political reasons behind the gas delivery stop?

Gazprom had gas through Nord Stream 1 by the end of August Europe pumped, but these deliveries were then discontinued with reference to technical problems that allegedly could not be solved due to sanctions. The federal government called the reason advanced and suspected political motives behind the delivery stop.

Nord Stream 2 was also filled with Russian gas. Moscow has repeatedly offered the pipeline as a possible replacement for Nord Stream 1 in recent months, but Germany has not certified the pipeline. Since the start of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, commissioning has been ruled out.

Russian newspaper reports on US helicopters

The Internet newspaper, which is considered to be close to the Kremlin, reported that a US helicopter circled the Baltic Sea for nine hours from Sunday evening to Monday morning, about 250 kilometers from the Danish island of Bornholm. The newspaper appealed Flight radar data. The MH-60R Strike Hawk multi-purpose helicopter can also fight underwater targets, the Internet newspaper emphasized. The pipeline leaks are in international waters in the economic zones of Denmark and Sweden near Bornholm. Explosions were recorded in the region earlier in the week.

Leak North Stream

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin spoke about the pipeline-Incidents with his Danish colleague Morten Bødskov. Lloyd Denmark offered the “full support” of the US government with a view to the beginning investigations into the “explosions”, as the ministry announced on Wednesday (local time). “The United States remains committed to security in the Baltic Sea and to our longtime ally Denmark,” it said. The ministers agreed to work together as the matter progressed, the US Department said.

UN fears environmental damage

A UN spokesman, meanwhile, expressed concern about the possible environmental impact of the pipeline leaks. One hopes that the responsible authorities will seal the leaks as soon as possible.

Ex-BND President Gerhard Schindler suspects Russia is behind the pipeline leaks because he believes it has the most to gain from the damage. “The stop in gas deliveries can now be justified simply by referring to the defective lines, without having to advance alleged turbine problems or other unconvincing arguments for breaking the supply contracts,” Schindler told the “Welt”. “Unnoticed, conspiratorial damage to pipelines at a depth of 80 meters in the Baltic Sea” also clearly points to a state actor. Schindler was head of the BND from late 2011 to mid-2016.


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