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Russian Gas Pipeline Leaks into Baltic Sea

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A large disturbance in the sea can be observed off the coast of the Danish island of Bornholm Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022 following a series of unusual leaks on two natural gas pipelines running from Russia under the Baltic Sea to Germany have triggered concerns about possible sabotage. | Image by Danish Defence Command via AP

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As the West and Russia remain trapped in tension over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, twin gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea may have emerged as a new and deadly front between NATO and the Kremlin.

Three leaks along the Russia-to-Germany Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines, both idle but containing natural gas, have spiraled into a dangerous mystery, with all eyes on the varied incentives for sabotage amongst the West and Russia. Germany froze Nord Stream 2 before Russia initiated the fight in February, and Western sanctions drove Moscow to cut off Nord Stream 1 gas this month, Associated Press (AP) reports.

On Tuesday, September 27, 2022, a sizable water disturbance was seen off the shore of the Danish island of Bornholm after a series of leaks from the two natural gas pipelines. According to a Fox News report released Tuesday, the CIA alerted its Berlin counterparts earlier this summer of potential assaults on gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea.

As a result of the conflict in Ukraine, several European officials and academics are warning of the potential for further industrial sabotage during a confrontation over energy with Russia.

Other observers said it is yet another attempt to divide the U.S. and its European allies. The Russian and Kremlin media are accused of promoting a fictitious conspiracy theory that blames the U.S. for damage to natural gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea, Newsweek reports.

The stakes have now been raised by the outright accusation of an “Anglo-Saxon” plan by Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to Newsweek.

Russian officials openly speculated that the incident was the work of saboteurs, specifically those working for a foreign government. According to the state-run TASS Russian News Agency, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Friday, “such an unprecedented act of, one might say, state terrorism cannot and should not go without a serious international investigation,” Newsweek reports.

U.S. President Joe Biden rejected Russia’s claims on Friday, according to AP.

“It was a deliberate act of sabotage,” he said. “And now the Russians are pumping out disinformation and lies …When things calm down, we’re going to send the divers down to find out exactly what happened. We don’t know that yet exactly. But just don’t listen to what Putin’s saying. What he’s saying we know is not true.”

Some commentators in the U.S. are arguing that U.S. or Western sabotage is also a plausible explanation, as those countries may benefit from hitting Russian export revenues.

NATO has not yet debated publicly any military reaction, according to Newsweek. However, the alliance stated in remarks to Newsweek on Thursday that “all currently known information indicates that this is the consequence of premeditated, reckless, and irresponsible acts of sabotage.”          

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