A transnational investigation aims to shed light on the apparent sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines in the Baltic Sea. Three of the four leaks discovered in the gas pipes are within a few kilometers of each other, according to the Swedish Coast Guard.
From Brussels it was said that the leaks were probably a targeted act. "All information currently available indicates that this is the result of intentional, reckless and irresponsible acts of sabotage," said a statement from the North Atlantic Council of 30 member states. A possible mastermind was not named.
Investigations are now beginning, in which the German Navy is also said to be involved. It has its sights set on the Baltic Sea region and recently used more fleet service boats again due to the escalation of tensions with Russia. The reconnaissance ships are the "eyes and ears" of the Navy, and thus of the entire Bundeswehr and thus also of NATO. German maritime reconnaissance aircraft P-3C Orion have repeatedly been in the area. With a magnetic anomaly detector, these aircraft can detect submarines in the Earth's magnetic field beneath the aircraft. Added to this is the surveillance of land below and above water.
Who is behind the suspected sabotage?
The investigations have already begun - even without the leaks being accessed so far. EU Commissioner Ylva Johansson expressed confidence that it will be possible to find out who is behind the alleged act of sabotage. So far there have only been working hypotheses, but the evaluation of radar and satellite data from boats, ships and submarines that were in the area during the period in question is in full swing.
The investigators from Denmark, Sweden and Germany are looking at the question of range, for example, i.e. how far a military diver could swim with a larger load. After all, it is assumed that a total of several hundred kilograms of explosives were used for the explosions observed and registered by sensors. It is by no means clear that explosives were installed in a kind of commando operation only in the last few weeks. Likewise, a "state actor" could have planted explosive devices a long time ago - months or even years ago.
Numerous maneuvers on site
The challenge is the reconstruction of fact in an area that is used intensively. In June, NATO held its Baltops 22 naval exercise in waters off the Danish island of Bornholm. "Amphibian operations, anti-submarine warfare, air defense, air support for maritime operations, mine clearance, explosive ordnance disposal, and diving and salvage operations were practiced," writes the Bundeswehr. The Northern Coasts 22 naval maneuver is currently underway in the Baltic Sea.
Security expert Johannes Peters suspected Russia to be behind the alleged act of sabotage on Thursday. "Obviously it seems a bit absurd to destroy your own pipelines," said the expert from the Institute for Security Policy at the University of Kiel in the ARD "Morgenmagazin". But there are good reasons. One reason is certainly to send a "strong signal" to Europe, especially Germany and Poland, that the same could be done with pipelines, which are much more important for our security of supply. Another possible reason for a possible Russian act of sabotage is that in winter "the Nord Stream 2 pipe, which is still intact, can be used to increase pressure on Germany, for example if domestic political pressure on the government should increase because the Gas prices are high because we might not have enough gas for the winter after all."
Russia denies responsibility
According to its own statements, the Kremlin also suspects a state behind the crime and speaks of an act of terrorism, as spokesman Dmitri Peskov said according to reports from Russian news agencies. He dismissed assumptions by Western security experts that his country itself was behind the alleged act of sabotage as "stupid." In the area of the leaks in the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines, there were far more NATO ships and planes than Russian ones, he emphasizes.
Lithuania's foreign minister, Gabrielius Landsbergis, also spoke of an "act of terrorism", but saw it as aiming to stir up fear and make it more difficult to supply Europe with gas. And: "All of this corresponds to the definition of a terrorist act, at least from a political point of view; the legal assessment will take place later."