On September 26, 2022, a drop in pressure in both the Nord Stream (NS1) and Nord Stream 2 (NS2) pipelines indicated a leak. Since that time, a total of three leaks (two in NS1 and one in NS2) across both pipelines have been found. Seismologists have since registered explosions in the area measuring around 2.3 on the Richter scale. The leaks are in an area of the Baltic Sea just east of Bornholm Island, a strategic Danish outpost. The release of gas from the pipelines (which had been filled to maintain pressure but were not actively in use), has led to ships being advised to stay 5 nautical miles from the leaks and aircraft at least 3,280 feet above.
What happened? We asked, Dan Kochis, an expert on European affairs.
What’s the bottom line here? The leaks are almost certainly the act of Russian sabotage. The timing was no accident, alongside the recent mobilization, today the leaders of Denmark, Norway, and Poland were at a ceremony to open a new pipeline bringing Norwegian gas to Poland via the Baltic.
How bad is this? Environmentally aside from the obvious leak of methane to the atmosphere, the area of the seabed around Bornholm is particularly sensitive as there are clusters of gas canisters and munitions from wars past located in the area. Recall that when building the pipelines, Denmark necessitated the use of ships which did not anchor to the seabed in the area but rather hovered above for this reason. This is also a key transit lane in the Baltic.
What are the Russians up to? Russian statements over the leaks, “an unprecedented situation requiring urgent investigation,” foreshadow a certain denial of responsibility and shifting of blame on to the West, western sabotage, demands for restitution. Russia is also showcasing an ability to cut underwater gas pipelines, and perhaps this is a harbinger of things to come, as other non-Russian lines may come under attack in the future. Russia also has the same ability to cut undersea fiberoptic cables, and have indeed are thought to have mapped key cables.