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Much the West has accused Russia of being behind the damage the pipelines in the Baltic sea providing gas to Europe.

However, why would they do this? If they wanted to deprive Europe of gas, could they not just turn them off at the source, which is in Russia?

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    Some answers in the linked/dupe (which is a broader Q) cover this too.
    – Fizz
    Oct 3 at 13:00
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    Let's be consistent. If, in the absence of hard news, pipeline questions asking for the motivations of NATO causing the leak, or responses to NATO countries doing so, get closed/downvoted, then let's treat questions blaming/questioning Russia the same way: closing them pending harder info available to site readers. Oct 3 at 14:51
  • Turning off the gas is an act of escalation. The pipeline being "accidentally damaged by unknown causes" is not. Oct 4 at 9:52

4 Answers 4

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It is an odd decision if Russia did it, but if we assume Russia did it, it does make sense in light of the parts in play

  1. Russia destroyed a Russian pipeline. Nobody will go to war with them over this.

  2. Russia demonstrated they can destroy undersea targets with ease and plausible deniability. And it's well known that Russia has extensively mapped the undersea fiber cables for the Internet.

  3. Russia is struggling in its Ukranian invasion thanks to NATO support

    NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the capture of [Lyman], where Ukrainian flags were raised over civic buildings on Saturday, demonstrated that Ukraine is capable of dislodging Russian forces and showed the impact Ukraine's deployment of advanced Western weapons was having on the conflict.

  4. Russia claims the Donbas region is now part of Russia

    The areas that are being annexed are not all under control of Russian forces. So, from a Kremlin perspective, once they do become part of Russia, then fighting and a front line will run through Russian sovereign territory. That could prompt some sort of ultimatum from Russia to Ukraine and the West.

  5. Europe is in an energy crisis. Europe got a lot of its natural gas from Russia

    In 2020, almost three quarters of the extra-EU crude oil imports came from Russia (29 %), the United States (9 %), Norway (8 %), Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom (both 7 %) as well as Kazakhstan and Nigeria (both 6 %). A similar analysis shows that over three quarters of the EU's imports of natural gas came from Russia (43 %), Norway (21 %), Algeria (8 %) and Qatar (5 %), while more than half of solid fossil fuel (mostly coal) imports originated from Russia (54 %), followed by the United States (16 %) and Australia (14 %).

    Germany, in particular, is going to feel the pinch from not having any Russian natural gas options this winter

    Germany's network regulator, which would be in charge of gas rationing in the event of a supply emergency, on Thursday said that household consumption was too high to be sustainable.

    "The numbers for that week are thus very sobering," said agency president Klaus Mueller. "Without significant savings in the private area of consumption, it will be difficult to avoid an emergency situation in winter."

Remember that the pipeline could be repaired, according to Russia

“There have never been such incidents. Of course, there are technical possibilities to restore the infrastructure, it takes time and appropriate funds,” Novak said. “I am sure that appropriate possibilities will be found.”

Given all of the above, it's entirely possible this is to create another bargaining chip to use by Russia in negotiating ownership of Donbas. It's also a reminder that the Russian navy is still capable of causing havoc without detection.

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  • I don't feel like posting another answer to this Q which would mostly repeat what I wrote in my answer to the other, similar Q, but additional points raised by those who favor to blame Russia: (1) it may have done this to [somewhat plausibly] blame the US (which Putin basically did) and thus sow division between Germany and the US. Also, (2) one of the NS2 pipelines survived the attacks (that's confirmed by Gazprom now). And NS2 is the pipeline that Germany refused to give approval to open, so they'd have to eat their hat on that now if they want Russian gas at some point in the (near) future.
    – Fizz
    Oct 4 at 3:01
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The Russians have turned it off at the source several times, or at least many EU countries believed this to be the case:

The Russian gas firm said gas flow was down because one of the last two operating turbines had to be halted due to a “technical condition of the engine” – an argument the German government in strong terms dismissed as a made-up pretext.

“The turbine is there, it has been serviced,” said the government spokesperson Christiane Hoffmann in Berlin, referencing a turbine Russia had previously cited as a reason for reduced deliveries.

“At this point in time supply contracts aren’t being honoured,” she added. “What we are seeing is indeed power play, and we won’t allow ourselves to be impressed by that.”

If the EU is correct and there was no technical problem, then Russia apparently believed (for some reason) that gas supplies being cut off due to a technical problem rather than Russian intransigence somehow benefited Russia. (This could, perhaps, be because somehow "we can't resume gas deliveries via this route" is stronger than "we don't want to resume gas deliveries via this route.")

But of course that purported benefit goes away if the EU doesn't believe the supply reduction is due to a technical problem. In that case, creating a real, undeniable technical problem achieves the aim.

You'll note that there are a lot of "ifs" in the above. Here I've worked out a set of (perhaps implausible) beliefs that Russia might hold that would explain their purported actions. But none of this should be taken as "that's what really happened": we don't know if Russia's previous delivery reductions really were intentional, rather than technical difficulties; we don't know if Russia damaged the undersea pipeline; and we don't know what Russia (correctly or incorrectly) really believes will influence the EU. And I personally don't have a plausible (at least to me) explanation for why technical problem is more useful than "we're not delivering" (though I don't have plausible explanations for many other things Russia appears to believe, either).

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"I am sorry, but we cannot deliver gas because our pump stations are in maintenance." -- "But isn't maintenance over by now?"

"I am sorry, but we cannot deliver gas because we are waiting for a turbine to be returned from Canada" -- "But that turbine is ready for transport?!"

"I am sorry, but we cannot deliver gas because because we are still waiting for Germany to allow delivery of said turbine - you know, sanctions and all that" -- "But the turbine is all fine and here and exempted from any sanctions and ready for you to be requested. Where shall we bring it?"

...

"I am sorry. You know what? Keep the turbine because the tubes are 'accidentally' broken anyway"

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    Do not understand what do you want to say.
    – Stančikas
    Oct 3 at 12:56
  • @Stančikas He is possibly getting at what I tried to explain in my answer.
    – cjs
    Oct 4 at 2:11
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This could be done to create problems for the Russia opposition party that may take over V.Putin. It is actually not important which exactly one, this answer assumes such party exists and is relatively pro-western.

The reason of damaging the pipeline then is to prevent the mentioned opposition party, when in power, from getting $200 million per day (source) after ending the war in Ukrainian terms. That much Russia used to earn from the gas exports. This really can be used to fix some problems with the economy. That much likely cannot be obtained just as a humanitarian or some other similar help.

Of course, EU may say "we do not want longer to have the dependence from Russian gas imports". But if gas purchases from Russia would be made the condition to end the war, may be possible to achieve opening Nord Stream 1 and 2, both ar full capacity. EU may opt to support the new government of Russia with money they need to pay for buying that gas somewhere anyway.

EU mostly wants safety first and would go great lengths to support pro-western government without ambitions to take over the sovereign countries around. How it used to be for some time in the recent past until somewhat after 2004 or about. Ok, there was not enough fame and living standards as they were. Without fame or without Nord Stream? Putin may have pre-made this difficult decision for his successors.

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  • Not my DV, but my reaction to reading this is "huh?! huh?! huh?!" You need clarify what opposition party and in which country you're talking about etc.
    – Fizz
    Oct 3 at 13:26
  • Have done that I could. This explanation looks for me more probable than any other so far. I will keep it for now.
    – Stančikas
    Oct 3 at 14:24
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    It seems too far-fetched for Russian politics: Putin doesn't seem to be preparing for leaving. Besides, this is not such a major income stream compared to oil. And even if it did happen, Gazprom would not disappear, and Germany would likely cooperate with repairs. In a word, this would be a minor nuisance for the new government compared to other things. Similar things happened (dropping problems to the new opposition government in WWI and self-destruction of own infrastructure in WWII), but in the face of imminent defeat.
    – Zeus
    Oct 4 at 2:02

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