Russia could disrupt Nord Stream leak probe

One of the favorite plot twists in any murder mystery playbook is when the detective turns out to be the murderer. This old scenario may be playing out in the Baltic Sea right now. The explosions in the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines last Monday were serious acts of aggression, falling just below the threshold of military violence. But the main suspect is also the main detective.

Precisely because the sabotage was not a military attack, the act has not yet been officially attributed to a person or a country, and the pipelines ultimately belong to Russia, the Kremlin sends warships to join Nord Stream investigators at the leak sites. This means that the Russian government vessels are in the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) of Sweden and Denmark, where Swedish and Danish maritime experts will of course also investigate. The activity around the leaks presents a serious risk of escalation.

Four leaks in the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines are bubbling off the Danish Baltic Sea island of Bornholm, located about 23 miles from Sweden and 105 miles from mainland Denmark. Two of them are located in the exclusive economic zone of Denmark and the other two in that of Sweden. The gas poisons the sea and its high methane content makes it far more harmful to the atmosphere than regular carbon dioxide emissions. Indeed, the leaks may already have reached the equivalent of 40% of Sweden’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.

One of the favorite plot twists in any murder mystery playbook is when the detective turns out to be the murderer. This old scenario may be playing out in the Baltic Sea right now. The explosions in the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines last Monday were serious acts of aggression, falling just below the threshold of military violence. But the main suspect is also the main detective.

Precisely because the sabotage was not a military attack, the act has not yet been officially attributed to a person or a country, and the pipelines ultimately belong to Russia, the Kremlin sends warships to join Nord Stream investigators at the leak sites. This means that the Russian government vessels are in the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) of Sweden and Denmark, where Swedish and Danish maritime experts will of course also investigate. The activity around the leaks presents a serious risk of escalation.

Four leaks in the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines are bubbling off the Danish Baltic Sea island of Bornholm, located about 23 miles from Sweden and 105 miles from mainland Denmark. Two of them are located in the exclusive economic zone of Denmark and the other two in that of Sweden. The gas poisons the sea and its high methane content makes it far more harmful to the atmosphere than regular carbon dioxide emissions. Indeed, the leaks may already have reached the equivalent of 40% of Sweden’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.

Because the gas is highly flammable, repair crews were unable to begin assessing the holes until October 3. Indeed, it was impossible to access the sites until the volumes of erupting gas subsided. Danish authorities announced on Sunday that leaks in its EEZ have stopped, while one of the leaks from Sweden’s EEZ has subsided (the other has increased in volume). On-site investigations began on October 3. The Swedish and Danish governments have already informed the United Nations Security Council that the explosions were likely caused by hundreds of kilograms of explosives.

Enter the Kremlin. “It looks like an act of terrorism, possibly at the state level,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on September 29. Needless to say, an act of terrorism, especially at the state level, must be investigated by the affected country. . And this country is not only Sweden and Denmark but also Russia since the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines are the property of Gazprom International Projects, a subsidiary of the Russian PJSC Gazprom.

“Nord Stream AG intends to begin assessing the damage to the pipeline as soon as it receives the necessary official clearances,” Nord Stream explained in a Sept. 29 press release. “Access to the incident area can only be allowed after the pressure in the gas pipeline has stabilized and the gas leak has stopped. Until the completion of the damage assessment, it is not possible to predict the time frame for restoring the gas transmission infrastructure.

Since the pipelines ultimately belong to Russia, this gives the Russian government the option of sending personnel as well. But because the leaks occurred in the exclusive economic zones of Sweden and Denmark, the two countries will also send marine investigators. The Swedish Security Service announced on Sunday that it was investigating with Swedish government prosecutors and was being assisted by the Swedish Coast Guard, which is (in turn) assisted by the Swedish Navy. The Swedish Coastguard and Swedish Navy arrived at the Swedish EEZ leak site on the morning of 3 October. crews are coming,” a recently retired senior Swedish navy officer told FP. “If the Russians go there, there is nothing but the Swedes or [Royal] The Danish navy can do that. The problem is that they can then withdraw the evidence that the Swedish and Danish investigators are looking for.

Retired Rear Admiral Nils Christian Wang, former head of the Royal Danish Navy, added: “Everyone wants an answer as to who carried out the sabotage. And everyone is entitled to try to provide an answer. The Russians are within their right to investigate. If these were Western-owned pipelines, Western owners and governments would jointly investigate. Indeed, another twist is that Nord Stream is minority-owned by German, French and Dutch companies, meaning they – and their home governments – could also claim the right to investigate.

The sequence of events likely to unfold in the next few days, retired Rear Admiral Anders Grenstad, a former Swedish Navy chief, told FP began with the Swedish Coast Guard asking the Swedish Navy to help investigate leaks. does not have the required underwater equipment, which appears to have happened in the days leading up to their arrival on October 3. In Denmark, the navy also takes care of coastguard functions. “And then the Russians will come,” Grenstad said. “Legally, this is an extremely delicate situation because Sweden, Denmark and Russia have the right to investigate, which is why there is a real risk of escalation.”

“We will likely see Russian warships at the leak sites. We will see Swedish warships, Danish warships and of course ROVs [remotely operated vehicles] who will travel underwater to document the damage,” Wang said. “We may see Swedish and Danish ROVs on the seabed and then surface with various pieces of evidence, but we are also likely to see Russian ROVs surface with other pieces of evidence which the Russians would then say point to the seabed. ‘American espionage.’

Although Swedish and Danish navy ships do not harass Nord Stream investigators, Russia could point to the risk of such harassment as a reason for navy ships accompanying investigators, and of course there is a risk real that Russian military ships are interfering with the work. Swedish and Danish investigators. In 2015, a Russian Navy ship harassed a civilian crew from the engineering company ABB who was laying the NordBalt cable between Lithuania and Sweden. “As soon as you have warships patrolling the same area, you always have a risk of escalation,” Wang said. “These leaks are a shining example of the complexity of countering hybrid aggression.” Every country with underwater or undersea infrastructure, which is most countries, should start thinking about how they would handle the situation Sweden and Denmark are currently facing.

In January 2021, I hosted a conversation between Rear Admiral Ewa Skoog Haslum, Chief of the Swedish Navy, and Retired Vice Admiral Andrew Lewis, then Commander of the US Second Fleet, about the risk of aggression maritime in the gray zone. Both admirals proved to be prophetic. Although they could not predict the sabotage of the gas pipelines, they pointed to the risk of disruption of other civilian activities in the Baltic Sea and the Arctic, and how difficult it is for navies to deter such aggression which, while causing significant damage, is not of a military nature.

Today, Skoog Haslum faces the trickiest gray area encounter in Europe to date: ensuring the safety of Swedish investigators in the Swedish EEZ while avoiding a military confrontation with Russian teams that could provoke Swedish sailors. . It’s a good thing that Skoog Haslum has, over the years, already given so much thought to the seemingly unthinkable.

About Leni Loberns

Check Also

CORENERGY INFRASTRUCTURE TRUST, INC. MANAGEMENT REPORT AND ANALYSIS OF FINANCIAL POSITION AND OPERATING RESULTS (Form 10-Q)

The following discussion should be read in conjunction with the unaudited consolidated financial statements and …