Nordstream Pipeline Suffers Gas Leaks in Baltic Sea, Sabotage Suspected as Explosions Heard Before Leaks

Denmark believes "deliberate actions" caused big leaks in the Nord Stream pipelines running under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany, and seismologists said powerful explosions preceded the leaks.

The pair of explosions Monday produced leaks in all three of the underwater Nord Stream pipelines that connect Russia and Germany, causing massive plumes of gas bubbles to break the surface of the Baltic Sea.

Nord Stream gas leak
The gas leak caused bubbles to break the surface of the water. Twitter

The Swedish National Seismic Network (SNSN) registered two distinct blasts in the vicinity of Bornholm on Monday. Automatic monitoring picked up the first blast, which registered the equivalent of an earthquake magnitude of 1.8, at 2:03 a.m. A second, larger blast, registering an equivalent earthquake magnitude of 2.3, came at 7:04 p.m.

As reported by the Associated Press, European leaders and experts pointed to possible sabotage amid the energy standoff with Russia provoked by the war in Ukraine. Although filled with gas, the pipeline is not currently supplying to Europe.

The German operator of the pipelines, Nord Stream AG, said it's preparing a survey to assess the damage. "Currently, it is not possible to estimate a timeframe for restoring the gas transport infrastructure," a company statement said. "The causes of the incident will be clarified as a result of the investigation."

'These are Deliberate Actions'

"It is the authorities' clear assessment that these are deliberate actions -– not accidents," Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said Tuesday. "The situation is as serious as it gets." But she added "there is no information indicating who could be behind it."

The damage did not have an immediate impact on Europe's energy supplies. Russia cut off flows earlier this month, and European countries had scrambled to build up stockpiles and secure alternative energy sources before that.

But the episode is likely to mark a final end to the Nord Stream pipeline projects, a more-than-two-decade effort that deepened Europe's dependence on Russian natural gas — and that many officials now say was a grave strategic mistake.

The gas leaks took place during the inauguration of the new Baltic Pipe undersea pipeline that gives Poland and its neighbors access to Norwegian natural gas. The project was intended to reduce dependence on the gas that once flowed from Russia.

Experts Claim Russian Sabotage

The Nord Stream pipelines have been at the center of an energy clash between Europe and Russia since the invasion of Ukraine in late February. Plunging Russian gas supplies have caused prices to soar, pressuring governments to help ease the pain of sky-high energy bills for households and businesses as winter nears. The crisis also has raised fears of rationing and recession.

Simone Tagliapietra, an energy expert with the Bruegel think tank in Brussels, speculated that the leaks could have been caused by Russian sabotage or anti-Russian sabotage. One possibility is Russia signaling it "is breaking forever with Western Europe and Germany" as Poland inaugurates its pipeline with Norway, he said. "In any case, this is a stark reminder of the exposure to risk of Europe's gas infrastructure," Tagliapietra said.

Biden Threatened to Prevent Nordstream from Becoming Operational if Russia Invaded Ukraine

A former Polish Defense Minister, Radek Sikorski, has attributed to the United States the sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines. "Thank you, USA," Sikorski wrote on Twitter.

However, Poland's Secretary of State, Stanisław Żaryn, denounced Sikorki's claim on Twitter as "Russian #propaganda," calling it "a smear campaign against Poland, the US and Ukraine.

President Joe Biden promised on February 7 to prevent Nord Stream 2 from becoming operational if Russia invaded Ukraine. "If Russia invades," said Biden, "then there will be no longer a Nord Stream 2. We will bring an end to it."

Reporter: "But how will you do that, exactly, since...the project is in Germany's control?"

Biden: "I promise you, we will be able to do that."