the Nato bears the Atlantic Ocean in its name – North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Allianz’s second domestic body of water, if you want to call it that, is the Baltic Sea. Most of the neighboring countries belong to the transatlantic alliance – from the three Baltic states to Poland and Germany to Denmark. Sweden and Finland are in the admissions process. Only Russia is not included.
So when two undersea pipelines are blown up in the backyard of the world’s strongest military alliance, that’s extremely threatening. The damaged Nord Stream pipes may currently have no economic relevance because no gas flowed through them from Russia to Germany anyway. For the many other pipelines and cables laid at the bottom of the Baltic Sea lie, however, this does not apply. The successful act of sabotage is therefore not a particularly good performance record for the naval forces of the NATO countries, whose task is to monitor and secure the Baltic Sea. The use of the German Navy to support the investigation, which the Federal Ministry of Defense announced in a proud tweet on Wednesday, may have come a little too late.
For NATO, who carried out the attack is also of the utmost importance. It has to do with the treaty on which the alliance rests. According to Article 5 of this treaty, an “armed attack” on a member state is considered an attack on all members, which in turn can then react militarily together. In technical jargon this is referred to as the “alliance case”.
Applied to the current situation in the Baltic Sea, this means that if a pipeline majority owned by the Russian state-owned company Gazprom is destroyed and the places where the explosive devices were attached to the pipes are in international waters, then the NATO does not yet address the question of the alliance. However, if it were a pipeline owned by a company from a NATO member country, or if the attack happened in the territorial waters of a NATO country, the situation would be very different.
The European Union is considering sanctions for the attack
NATO described the attack on the pipeline on Thursday as very worrying. The alliance will ward off any deliberate attacks on infrastructure and respond with a joint and decisive response, the member countries said in a statement.
The European Union had already made a similar statement on Wednesday. She, too, warned those responsible for the sabotage against a “robust and closed response” – in other words: some form of economic sanctions – whereby Commission President Ursula von der Leyen spoke of attacks on the “active energy infrastructure” to which the Nord Stream tubes don’t count at the moment. However, the EU foreign policy representative Josep Borrell did not make this distinction between actively used and unused infrastructure.