Who was behind the Nord Stream leaks?

Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2, the two gas pipelines running under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany, have been ruptured and rendered unusable for the time being. Underwater explosions have been identified as the cause, strengthening suspicions of sabotage. Commentators discuss motives and suspects.

Open/close all quotes
Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

A warning shot for Poland

This was no accident, Rzeczpospolita writes:

“The explosions occurred near Bornholm, not far from the Baltic Pipe, the gas pipeline that was inaugurated on the same day of the blasts and which is supposed to make Poland and Central Eastern Europe largely independent of supplies from the East. The message is clear: any attempt to break free from Russian supplies is a dangerous undertaking.”

Sergei Medvedev (RU) /

A wasted effort

Political scientist Sergei Medvedev sees the leaks as a result of the failure of the Kremlin's energy war against the West. He writes on Facebook:

“A gradual renunciation of Russian energy sources would have taken decades (in the context of the energy transition), because nobody was in a rush to do it. But now it is taking just a year for Europe to switch to new energy production and supply systems. Russia, on the other hand, is facing disaster because it cannot compensate for its export shortfalls with deliveries to Asia. The consequences are panic in the Kremlin in view of the impending oil embargo in winter and an act of sabotage perpetrated on three Nordstream pipelines in the hope that European governments will cave in or fall. But that is precisely what they are not doing.”

Etelä-Suomen Sanoma (FI) /

The Baltic is not safe

Etelä-Suomen Sanomat speculates about who was responsible for the pipeline leaks:

“Russia is considered the most likely culprit. By blowing up the gas pipelines Russia could be trying to undermine European unity. ... Western involvement in the pipeline attack cannot be completely ruled out either. US President Joe Biden said in early February that the US would 'end' the Nord Stream 2 pipeline if Russia attacked Ukraine. ... Whoever is behind the pipeline attack and whatever the motive, it shows that the Baltic Sea region is not safe from violence while the war in Ukraine continues.”

Gordonua.com (UA) /

Russian sabotage would be a casus belli

The damage to Nord Stream could force Nato to rethink its stance, says former Ukrainian foreign minister Pavlo Klimkin in a Facebook post republished by gordonua.com:

“Who stands to benefit from sabotage? Only Russia, which wants to prevent Europe from getting through the winter without complications. And which, of course, wants to deflect attention from the circus of the sham referendums. If the sabotage is proven, it can and should be considered an act of aggression against Nato and the member states of the alliance. Triggering all the corresponding consequences and the application of Article 5 of the Nato Collective Security Treaty. This could well be a geopolitical meat grinder that will change the world.”

The Spectator (GB) /

Russia seeking to up the ante

For The Spectator there can be no doubt about who is to blame for the pipeline leaks:

“Who other than Russia had the resources and motive to send commandos and divers deep into the Baltic Sea to wreak havoc on the pipelines? The blunt fact is that Putin has been steadily seeking to up the ante on the West. The faster his Ukraine venture goes south, the more he seeks to increase the pressure on Europe in the hopes of cracking the Atlantic alliance. But if Moscow did indeed engage in this warlike act, then it has simply committed a fresh blunder.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Europe's most sensitive nerve exposed

La Repubblica looks at the various motives for the sabotage and finds one particularly alarming:

“The Kremlin wants to show that it is ready to go all the way and is not afraid of escalation. It is raising the level of confrontation by targeting the exposed nerve of the West, the most sensitive artery that feeds its life in every way: the underwater infrastructure. We are entirely dependent on the interconnections constructed on the seabed, not just for our energy supply, but above all for the digital connections through which 97 percent of communications run, whether it's data or telephone calls.”

De Morgen (BE) /

Protect critical infrastructure

De Morgen is alarmed:

“The attacks show once again how vulnerable Europe is when it comes to 'hybrid warfare', for example sabotage. ... The question we should now ask ourselves is how well prepared we are to counter such actions. What if tomorrow, for example, one or more undersea internet cables supplying the EU and Belgium are blown up or cut? Do we have enough alternatives to guarantee the vital lines of communication? ... And is the other critical infrastructure - from ports to LNG terminals and nuclear power plants - sufficiently protected against sabotage?”

Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

Reassess dependencies

The purported acts of sabotage highlight the importance of political decisions regarding economic dependencies, Dagens Nyheter comments:

“It is difficult for an economy to be completely independent of all rogue states. Some of the world's terrorist regimes are among the main producers of oil. China covers almost all of the EU's demand for rare earths, which are used in many new technologies. But what the Nord Stream fiasco teaches us is that we need to look much more critically at which regimes we depend on.”

Berlingske (DK) /

Be ready to engage directly in the war

Because Russia is probably seeking escalation, the West must be prepared to take new steps, warns Berlingske:

“It is crucial to make it clear to Putin that he will also face military reactions of an entirely new calibre if he drops a nuclear bomb. This should apply not only to deliveries of even more longer-range weapons but also to Nato's readiness to engage directly in the war to liberate Ukraine. Power is the only language Putin understands.”