EU Interior Commissioner Ylva Johansson has called the alleged sabotage of the Nord Stream 1 and 2 Baltic Sea pipelines a warning call and announced a stress test for critical infrastructure in Europe.
"We (the EU Commission) will now contact all member states and we will carry out a stress test in relation to the critical infrastructure," said the Swede in the ZDF "heute journal".
In view of the leaks in the pipelines, she spoke of an "attack" that was an "escalation" and "a threat". "As far as I can tell, it's a very intelligent attack that couldn't have been carried out by a normal group of people," said the Commissioner. The risk is great that a state is behind it. "Of course we have our suspicions. But it's too early to make a final judgement."
US State Department: "More questions than answers right now"
US State Department spokesman Ned Price was similarly cautious about possible causes of the pipeline leaks. "We currently have more questions than answers." The US government does not want to make any assumptions about possible backers of a sabotage action until investigations into the natural gas pipelines have been completed.
On the night of Monday, a sharp drop in pressure was initially detected in one of the two tubes of the unused Nord Stream 2 pipeline. Later, the Nord Stream 1 operator reported a drop in pressure in these two tubes as well. Danish authorities finally discovered a total of three leaks in the two pipelines.
Already on Tuesday, several countries brought an attack on the European gas infrastructure into play as the cause of the unprecedented damage. The EU and NATO assume sabotage. The Kremlin had dismissed speculation that Russia was involved in damaging the pipelines as "stupid and absurd".
Russia is said to be launching its own investigation
The Russian Prosecutor General's Office has meanwhile opened a case of international terrorism. Moscow justified the step by saying that the damage to the pipelines had "inflicted considerable economic damage on Russia".
Gazprom had pumped gas to Europe through Nord Stream 1 until the end of August, but then stopped these deliveries, citing technical problems that allegedly could not be solved due to sanctions. The federal government called the reason advanced and suspected political motives behind the delivery stop.
Nord Stream 2 was also filled with Russian gas. Moscow has repeatedly offered the pipeline as a possible replacement for Nord Stream 1 in recent months, but the pipeline has not been certified by Germany. Since the start of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, commissioning has been ruled out.
The Internet newspaper lenta.ru, which is considered to be close to the Kremlin, reported that a US helicopter circled the Baltic Sea for nine hours from Sunday evening to Monday morning, about 250 kilometers from the Danish island of Bornholm. The newspaper relied on data from Flightradar. The MH-60R Strike Hawk multi-purpose helicopter can also fight underwater targets, the Internet newspaper emphasized.
The pipeline leaks are in international waters in the economic zones of Denmark and Sweden near Bornholm. Explosions were recorded in the region earlier in the week.
"Full support" of the US government
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin spoke to his Danish colleague Morten Bødskov about the pipeline incidents. Lloyd Denmark offered the "full support" of the US government in view of the beginning investigations into the "explosions", as the ministry announced. "The United States remains committed to security in the Baltic Sea and to its longtime ally Denmark," it said. The ministers agreed to work together as the matter progressed, the US Department said.
Former BND President Gerhard Schindler suspects Russia is behind the pipeline leaks because he believes it has the most to gain from the damage. "The stop in gas deliveries can now be justified simply by referring to the defective lines, without having to advance alleged turbine problems or other unconvincing arguments for breaking the supply contracts," Schindler told the "Welt".
"Unnoticed, conspiratorial damage to pipelines at a depth of 80 meters in the Baltic Sea" also clearly points to a state actor. Schindler was head of the BND from late 2011 to mid-2016.
Care for the climate and the environment
A UN spokesman, meanwhile, expressed concern about the possible environmental impact of the pipeline leaks. One hopes that the responsible authorities will seal the leaks as soon as possible.
According to the Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research Warnemünde (IOW), the impact of the leaks on climate change is comparatively small. "This does not change the climate," said IOW researcher Oliver Schmale in Rostock. Nevertheless, the total amount of 500 million cubic meters of natural gas that can escape from the pipes according to assumptions by various media corresponds to around 18 percent of the annual methane emissions in Germany in 2021. According to Schmale, however, it is only 0.06 percent in a global comparison. According to the information, the natural gas escaping from the pipeline consists of around 97 percent methane.
However, the scientist does not want to downplay the damage caused by the greenhouse gas methane. The greenhouse gas effect is around 25 times stronger with methane than with CO2.