On Monday, September 26, two lines of Nord Stream 1 and one line of Nord Stream 2 transporting gas from Russia to Germany were severely damaged in international waters near the Danish island of Bornholm.
Before the pipelines got sabotaged, they had been fully operational, with a total design capacity of 110 billion cubic metres of gas per year. In 2021, Germany consumed 90 billion cubic metres of gas, of which Russia supplied 50 billion.
The Nord Stream 2 line, which has remained intact for some reason, cannot serve as a sufficient and reliable enough gas source for Germany. In the acute energy and political crisis, the very existence of the Nord Stream pipeline left room for dialogue between Moscow and Berlin. But this is no longer the case. The prospect of a major war in Europe is now looming large.
Leaks in the Nord Stream pipelines.
The pipelines underwent dramatic falls in pressure almost simultaneously, immediately prompting the idea of targeted sabotage and pipe explosions. Sweden's seismic service said the Nord Stream incidents did involve subsea blasts and, according to Reuters, one of them "corresponded to over 100 kg of dynamite".
Sweden's police said it had launched a preliminary investigation into possible sabotage related to the Nord Stream 1 gas leak in the Baltic Sea. "We have established a report, and the crime classification is gross sabotage," a national police spokesperson said.
Germany agrees the pipes could have been sabotaged. "The drop in pressure in Nord Stream 2 and on both lines of Nord Stream 1 could have been caused by a deliberate sabotage," Der Tagesspiegel wrote, echoed by other German media.
Senior officials have provided no commentary so far.
"The destruction that occurred on three strings of the offshore gas pipelines of the Nord Stream system is unprecedented. It is not yet possible to estimate the timing of the restoration of the gas transport infrastructure," Nord Stream AG, the network operator, said. The exact location of the leaks and the area of gas bubbling from the pipeline are visible in satellite images.
Leak in the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. Photo: Danish Defence.
Only global-scale players can afford such massive sabotage. Some consider it might have been the doing of Ukraine, Russia itself, or even the US. US officials have repeatedly stated that they oppose Nord Stream and try to prevent the project's development.
According to open sources, since the beginning of September and up to the date of the sabotage, American helicopters cruised, and US Navy warships operated along the pipeline route, including in the area of the explosion, while scuba divers from the Royal Navy of Great Britain conducted exercises in the Bornholm Depression area.
In the summer, specialised media noted successes in testing underwater drones at the BALTOPS 22 exercise just off Bornholm Island. The most advanced commentators, Polish MEP and former foreign minister Radek Sikorski on Twitter, thanked the US for blowing up Russian gas pipelines, accompanying it with a photo.
If we talk about the restoration of gas pipelines, there should be a whole range of stages. First, it is necessary to assess the scale of the damage and repairs, if possible. Second, to restore them joining the efforts. Taking the current geopolitical backdrop, this looks impossible, escalating hostility from the states involved. Amid the Nordstream accidents, Germany is unlikely to have sufficient volumes for the winter, given relatively unsuccessful efforts to find alternative suppliers for the Russian gas.
However, there is the Yamal-Europe pipeline, with an actual capacity of 35 billion cubic metres per year. The pipeline runs through Belarus and Poland, the "risk zone" due to the tensions between Warsaw and Berlin.
The Urengoy-Pomary-Uzhgorod pipeline, with a 28-billion cubic metres annual capacity, goes through war-torn Ukraine and supplies gas to several European countries. On September 27, Russia's Gazprom threatened Ukraine's Naftogaz with sanctions in retaliation for its "unfair behaviour", which would mean the end of the use of Ukrainian transit, including for Germany.
Politically, the Nord Streams' "loss" means that Moscow and Berlin can't agree on a settlement of relations and peace in Europe. Plus, there is not much of a "material" basis for such agreements now.
Germany will be freezing, facing the looming deindustrialisation risk. Even if Russia wanted it, it would be able to help.
What choice does Berlin have? All we can do is hope it will not be the choice of the militarisation acceleration and attempt to solve the problems by force.