The US has long opposed NATO’s (especially Germany’s) dependence on Russian, formerly Soviet, natural gas. The United States, in fact, used export controls to block the original Yamal pipeline in the 1980s, believing the threat of a Russian cutoff would alter Europe’s political decisions.
As recently as 2018, then-president Donald Trump warned the Europeans at the UN General Assembly of the potential for a Russian energy cutoff. There is video of the German delegation to UNGA appearing to mock Mr. Trump. Then came Ukraine and severe cutbacks in the delivery of Russian natural gas to Europe.
Now, as Norway and Poland announce the opening of the Trans Baltic Pipeline, Russia’s Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines have been damaged near the Danish island of Bornholm in the Baltic Sea. Three separate pipeline breaches are apparent, essentially ruling out the possibility of a technical fault.
While the pipelines are not currently operating, they are kept filled with natural gas under pressure and the gas is bubbling up to the surface. This suggests the damage to both pipelines was significant, although a full assessment remains to be done.
Repairs, it appears, will take some time even if priority is given to the first Nord Stream pipeline, making it unlikely that it can be returned to service before winter, even if there is a change in the political situation.
The first guesses have been that the Nord Stream pipelines were sabotaged in an effort to affect Russia’s war in Ukraine. Such an operation would require the ability to locate the pipelines and place explosive charges in three different places. If they were, the questions are who did it and why?
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Stephen Bryen is a Senior Fellow at Yorktown Institute