Mysterious leaks affected both Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines between Russia and Germany this week, prompting investigations from European countries. Video footage shared online showed bubbles rising to the surface of the Baltic Sea, above the pipelines, suggesting that natural gas was leaking in large quantities.
UPDATE – The surface area of the largest Nord Stream gas leak shows a “disturbance” of well over 1 kilometer in diameter, according to the Danish armed forces. pic.twitter.com/u0r4cGjImo
— Disclose.tv (@disclosetv) September 27, 2022
The footage was released by the Danish Armed Forces, and officials also revealed that the leaks were causing a disturbance across a diameter of more than 1 kilometer.
Two leaks have been identified on the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which has been inactive since last month. Both leaks were identified to the northeast of the island of Bornholm, which is Danish territory.
On Monday, the Nord Stream 2 operator also reported a sudden and unexpected drop in pressure. The Danish Energy Authority confirmed shortly afterward that a leak had been discovered in one of the two Nord Stream 2 pipelines that travel through Danish waters.
So far, there is only speculation about what happened – although, the fact that both pipelines were impacted suggests that this was done on purpose.
Western analysts believe that Russia could be behind the sabotage. Speaking to The Times of London on the condition of anonymity, one British military official claimed that the attack was orchestrated by the Kremlin and was “probably premeditated and planned” for several weeks.
Why Russia would choose to sabotage the pipelines in this way, however, is unclear. The Kremlin could have simply chosen to restrict the flow of natural gas through the pipelines in response to Western sanctions, as the Kremlin has repeatedly threatened.
Some Say the United States May Be Responsible
Video footage of President Joe Biden promising to bring an end to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in February of this year began circulating online again this week, with many commentators like Tucker Carlson from Fox News suggesting that President Joe Biden could have ordered an attack on the pipeline.
During a press conference just weeks before Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his troops to invade Ukraine, President Biden insisted that an invasion would bring an end to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
“If Russia invades, then there will be no longer a Nord Stream 2. We will bring an end to it,” the president said.
Pres. Biden: “If Russia invades…then there will be no longer a Nord Stream 2. We will bring an end to it.”
Reporter: “But how will you do that, exactly, since…the project is in Germany’s control?”
— ABC News (@ABC) February 7, 2022
When asked how the United States could do that, given the pipeline is under Germany’s control, the president smiled and reiterated his claim.
“I promise you, we will be able to do that.”
The Kremlin appears to share the same concerns that the White House may have ordered the attack, too.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova used her Telegram account to demand answers from the White House over the incident, speculating that President Biden may be responsible.
“US President Joe Biden must answer the question of whether the United States carried out its threat on September 25 and 26 when an emergency was reported at three lines of Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2, which has been preliminarily recognized as ruptures, whereas he suggested those were blown up,” Zakharova said.
The White House has not claimed responsibility for the damage, however, and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg described the incident as the result of “sabotage.”
“Discussed the sabotage on the NorthStream pipelines with Defence Minister Morten Bødskov,” Jens Stoltenberg said on Twitter. “We addressed the protection of critical infrastructure in NATO countries.”
There is no evidence that the United States is responsible for the attack, either. Despite President Biden’s words, a decision to attack Russian infrastructure in this way would without question be considered an escalation by Russia – a consequential matter at a time when the Russian president is threatening tactical nuclear weapon strikes in Ukraine.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.