Why Russia is the number one suspect of Nord Stream sabotage

End of september all four pipelines (twin of Nord Stream 1 and pair of Nord Stream 2) were sabotaged. Explosives caused big holes in the pipelines. Because of the salt water which enters the pipeline once the gas has escaped corrosion will make the piplelines worthless.

While Nord Stream 1 and 2 are not the only pipelines for transporting Russian gas to Europe the capacity to transport Russian gas has been reduced much.

In this article possible motives, the ability to perform such sabotage and the willingness to sabotage are discussed.

The most likely candidate is Russia.

Putrin has many motives to destroy Nord Stream 1 and 2. To start, these pipelines are not solely owned and operated by Russia. Shares of operating company North Stream AG are owned by Russian gas company Gazprom (51%) and also German, Dutch and French gas companies. The state of the Netherlands invested 1600 million euro in the construction of Nord Stream 1.

What are possible motives for sabotage, and sure destruction, of all four North Stream pipelines?

  1. Putin before the sabotage used Russian gas as a way to blackmail Europe. Putin wants sanctions to stop and want Europe to stop sending military aid to Ukraine. Gazprom earlier breached contracts by demanding to be paid in Rubles. Also Russia stated maintenance on the pipeline took longer than expected and blaimed sanctions on turbines. By not supplying gas Russia breached contracts. Stop supplyig gas to Europe did not help Putin’s wish to have Europe stop supportig Ukraine.
    By destroying the pipelines Gazprom will call force majeure and avoiding many penalties.
  2. Damaging or destroying critical infrastructure is consistent with Russia’s warfighting concept called Strategic Operation to Defeat Critical Infrastructure of the Adversary (SOPKVOP, in Russian).
  3. To put pressure on European governments by worried and angry citizens. Energy prices are rising, inflation is huge, companies using lots of gas might go bankrupt. Citizens might no longer support the Ukraine military support and demand their government to stop supporting Ukraine.
  4. Threat showing Europe that Russia is able and willing to sabotage critical infrastructure. The sabotage might be a start of more sabotage. For instance of gas pipelines from Norway to Europe.
  5. A threat for Europe and the VS not to intervent as a result of the annexation of four regions in Eastern Ukraine.
  6. To increase price of gas even more. Europe still receive gas via pipelines running over land in Belarus and Ukraine
  7. To blaim the United States. Some people will not understand the way Putin thinks, will not believe he sabotages his “own pipelines” and wil easily believe Russian desinformation.
  8. As a signal of strength and that Putin will not give up the war. Whatever happen. See this for this interesting “Burning bridges” tactic.
  9. To show the Russian audience that Western world is very hostile towards Russia and even is prepared to sabotage the gas pipelines.

Russia earlier was involved in sabotage of pipelines for geopolitical reasons.

In January 22, 2006 two explosions in the southern Russian republic of North Ossetia knocked out the main pipeline exporting gas across the border to Georgia. Hours later, a third explosion — in Karachaevo-Cherkessia, another southern Russian republic — ripped through a power line, temporarily cutting off a portion of Georgia’s electricity supplies. (source). In a televised address to the nation, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili claimed that the alleged sabotage was an attempt to force Georgia to sell its main gas pipeline to the Russian energy giant GazProm.

At April 9, 2009 the Central Asia-Tsentr-4 pipeline gas pipeline connecting Turkmenistan to Russia exploded. The cause was likely a to soon shut down of the flow of gas. When you shut off the flows, you get what is called a vacuum-bomb effect.

Turkmenistan blamed Russia for suddenly stop importing gas which caused the explosion. However experts doubt this. (source source)

Candidate United States

It is extremely unlikely the US destroys crucial pipelines running to NATO-member states. One motive could be to make sure Europe needs to import more US LNG gas.

U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on January 26, 2022 the Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Russia and Germany will not move forward if Russia invades Ukraine. “I’m not going to get into the specifics. We will work with Germany to ensure it does not move forward.” (source)

Another reason might be related to Biden February 7, 2022statements saying that if Russia invades Ukraine, he would end Nord Stream 2 (source)

Speaking to reporters on February 7, 2022 Biden said: “If Russia invades, that means tanks or troops crossing the border of Ukraine again, there will no longer be a Nord Stream 2.”

On February 22 2022 Germany halted the Nord Stream 2 Baltic Sea gas pipeline project, designed to double the flow of Russian gas direct to Germany, after Russia formally recognised two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine. (source).

So there was no need for the US to ‘end’ Nord Stream 2 as Germany ended the project at February 22.

Culprit Ukraine

Ukraine could have some motives to sabotage the Nord Stream pipelines.

First motive is to make sure the gas which runs through pipelines on Ukraine soil will not become obsolete. Russian gas travels into Europe via Ukraine via several key routes, including the Brotherhood, Soyuz and Yamal-Europe pipelines. Ukraine earns $1,2 billion a year from gas transit.

Also by destroying Nord Stream this could be some sort of insurance for Ukraine preventing Russia from being careless bombing the area where pipelines run.

Third motive could be to prevent Russia from getting more money for gas export. Money which could be used for the war. However Poetin decided himself to stop supplying gas from Nord Stream 1. Nord Stream 2 was not operational.

Another motive could be that once the pipelines are destroyed these cannot be used by Russian to blackmail Europe and force the states to terminate support for Ukraine. With no gas, no blackmail and support for Ukraine will continue.

It is very unlikely Ukraine is responsible for the sabotage.


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