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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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  • 1
    Some answers in the linked/dupe (which is a broader Q) cover this too. Oct 3, 2022 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, 2022 at 14:51
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    Sorry, voting to close. This whole Nordstrom subject, while fascinating, is essentially unanswerable for members of the public right now. Findings of the investigation haven't really been communicated and, by the nature of the event, are immensely prone to manipulation by nation states. Manipulation by the West, manipulation by Russia. So what we see each and every time is a set of differing opinion pieces and speculations as answers - see below. Not that I necessarily disagree with any particular answer, only there is no publicly available way to confirm their validity. Dec 31, 2022 at 18:07
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    This question presumes that it must be in Russia's interests for Russia to do something. Keep in mind that what might be in Russia's interests (at least, from our perspective) and what is in Russia's leaderships interests can diverge. For example, as you note this removes a negotiating card for pursing peace. This is unlikely in Russia's interests. However, the leadership in charge might feel it's in thier best interests, to avoid being replaced with other leadership who prefer peace.
    – NPSF3000
    Jan 1, 2023 at 5:52

12 Answers 12

20
  • Ukraine is dependent on Western arms shipments. Russia wants to discourage Western arms shipments. To keep the tension high, Russia used decreases and increases of gas shipments, threats with nuclear attack, and other information operations/propaganda whenever Western Europe seemed to get inured to Russian threats. Blowing the pipelines certainly made a big splash in the news.
  • Russia is still selling gas through other pipelines. Their chances of ever selling as much as they did before 2022 are slim, anyway.
  • Russia had reduced gas shipments before the sabotage, arguably in violation of signed contracts. They say otherwise. A sabotage by 'unknown parties' allows Russian companies to claim force majeure, if and when the legal aspects ever come to court.
4
  • That answer makes no sense. Item 1: Even if I buy the argument, a fire in a station on land that is easier to repair is easier to do. Blowing up the pipeline assumes Russians are also idiots. Item 2: nope, they sold MORE than before as LNG. Item 3: No, Russia has not. At least TRY to research facts - most of their pipelines were stuck in sanctions and still are.
    – TomTom
    Jan 2, 2023 at 13:31
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    This post doesn't make sense. The Russians controlled the SUPPLY side of the pipeline. Therefore it was their negotiating tool to use, as they could control whether it shipped gas, and if so, how much. So why would they destroy the pipeline when they controlled it in the first place?
    – Smith
    Jan 2, 2023 at 15:34
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    @Smith, first they threatened to shut it down and everybody got excited/anxious. Then the threat became the new normal. So next they did reduce the flow and everybody got excited/anxious. Then the reduction became the new normal. So next they shut it down and everybody got excited/anxious. Then the shutdown became the new normal. So next they blew it up and everybody got excited/anxious. This reasoning assumes that it isn't about gas, it is about controlling the public discourse in Europe. Note how nobody has delivered modern MBTs yet ... presumably because they worry Putin could panic.
    – o.m.
    Jan 2, 2023 at 17:02
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    As a footnote, the two lines cost 20 billion to gasprom and earned them 100-250 billion since 2011. Jan 2, 2023 at 17:55
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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.

5
  • 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. Oct 4, 2022 at 3:01
  • For most of your points, I am not clear as to why the destruction of the pipeline produces any better results than simply turning it off. And it seems unlikely that anybody thought Russia did not have the capability to destroy undersea infrastructure, nor does this provide firm evidence when Russia won't (even quietly) take the credit for it.
    – cjs
    Dec 22, 2022 at 11:51
  • @cjs There's no evidence to provide so I'm not sure what your point is there. As to why Russia would do this, the answer (as I noted above ) is that it shows that Russia can destroy undersea assets with ease. it would be a shame if something happened to those very expensive undersea Internet cables...
    – Machavity
    Dec 22, 2022 at 14:33
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    The evidence shows that somebody can destroy undersea infrastructure; it doesn't really help show that Russia can do so if 1) they won't claim they did it, and 2) "western officials doubt that the Kremlin was responsible".
    – cjs
    Dec 22, 2022 at 15:06
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    Russia destroyed a Russian pipeline. - It's not a "Russian" pipeline. It's owned by Nord Stream AG. Russia's Gazprom owns 51% stake (and supplies the gas) while the other 49% is owned by four European energy firms - one in France, one in the Netherlands and two in Germany (they sell the gas). These 5 funded 30% of the cost, while the rest was financed from banks and credit agencies.
    – sfxedit
    Feb 9, 2023 at 22:10
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Nord Stream 2, which consisted of 2 tubes, was to be opened 2022. This was cancelled when the war began.

Some 1-2 months before the blast, Russia already dramatically reduced supplies through Nord Stream 1, claiming technical difficulties with a turbine (this was debunked by Siemens as nonsense). During that time, articles started to appear in German news outlets favoring opening Nord Stream 2 (example: https://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/energiekrise-drehen-wir-den-spiess-um-und-oeffnen-nord-stream-2-kolumne-a-f59e705d-5a9b-4457-aee0-ceceee6796cc). I do not know how much Russian propaganda was behind this, but it certainly looks like someone was preparing the German public to fear gas wouldn't last over the winter, and Nord Stream 2 was neccesary.

Shortly after the blast, Russia offered to deliver gas through the second, undamaged Nord Stream 2 tube. Which whould have been a big propaganda success for Russia, driving a wedge between EU countries (especially Germany and Poland, which have a somewhat strained relationship anyway, and with Poland strongly disapproving of Germany buying Russian gas), and at the same time allowing Russia to still deliver less gas than previously (it's only one of two tubes after all, and who knows if there isn't some damage and we need to go below maximum pressure)

So:

  • Russia wanted to reduce the amount of gas to be delivered anyway
  • The blast left one tube in working condition
  • Germany using that tube to buy more gas would have been a propaganda success for Russia and driven a wedge between EU countries.
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    "Russia offered to deliver gas through the second, undamaged Nord Stream 2 tube" The problem with this logic is that Baltic pipe was opened on the day of the 3 blasts. Before schedule. Jan 1, 2023 at 3:50
  • "... Poland strongly disapproving of Germany buying Russian gas" - that's funny because half of their gas supply is from Rusia too.
    – sfxedit
    Jan 1, 2023 at 16:49
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    I guess it's more "Poland is disapproving gas to be delivered to Germany around their country, as now Russia can cut off Poland and still deliver to Germany". Jan 2, 2023 at 2:41
  • @sfxedit: not when the pipelines blew. The deal was off because of the Russian demands to pay rubles reuters.com/markets/commodities/… Feb 24, 2023 at 15:51
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Some possibilities:

1. It removes the ability of successors to restart the pipeline.

In this video William Spaniel suggests that, while possibly not benefiting Russia, destroying the pipeline may benefit Putin by reducing the attractiveness of having a coup and kicking him out, since one of the benefits of the coup to its backers may be that Russia will be able to sell lots of gas again.

2. A false flag operation to trick Russians into giving more support to the regime.

Again, from Spaniel's video. I agree with Spaniel that this argument isn't particularly convincing since attacks within Russia that hurt Russians more directly would seem to better achieve the aim, but at any rate this is something Putin has done before.

3. A "technical problem" is more useful than a voluntary cut-off at source.

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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  • Point 1 is quite wrong - the pipelines can be easily repaired - CIA had sabotaged the pipelines before too in the past, and the Russians had easily repaired it then.
    – sfxedit
    Jan 5, 2023 at 12:06
  • @sfxedit No, the CIA has never sabotaged that pipeline. Nor is it easily or inexpensively repaired; in fact if left long enough it may become unrepairable.
    – cjs
    Jan 5, 2023 at 12:56
  • In January 1982, President Ronald Reagan approved a CIA plan to sabotage the economy of the Soviet Union ... including software that later triggered a huge explosion in a Siberian natural gas pipeline, according to a new memoir by a Reagan White House official ... At the time, the United States was attempting to block Western Europe from importing Soviet natural gas. - Reagan Approved Plan to Sabotage Soviets.
    – sfxedit
    Jan 5, 2023 at 16:04
  • Ah, you were referring to a completely different, internal pipeline owned entirely by the U.S.S.R., not an international one that's half foreign-owned. I took "the pipelines" to be talking about the pipelines we were discussing, not completely different ones in a completely different era. So my statement that "the CIA has never sabotaged that pipeline" stands. And let's also remember, Russia is not the U.S.S.R.
    – cjs
    Jan 6, 2023 at 2:14
4

Destroying its own source of income (and a very lucrative one at that), seems a bit counter-productive.

Russia had already stopped supplying gas through NordStream-1 at the time the pipeline was blown up. So no immediate revenue was lost.

On the other hand, the uncertainty was increased. One could argue that the destruction of parts of that pipeline may have increased prices and therefore increased income of Russia (in the short term).

On the other hand, recently Russia (Gazprom) announced plans to repair the pipelines. There is indeed little sense in blowing infrastructure up and then repair it again (except maybe for a little power demonstration).

I think we'll have to live with not knowing exactly who was behind that for the foreseeable time.

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  • "I think we'll have to live with not knowing exactly who was behind that for the foreseeable time." Did not the hack confirm it was UK? Jan 1, 2023 at 3:51
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    @ВалерийЗаподовников No confirmation so far. If we would know we wouldn't need to ask this question. Jan 1, 2023 at 8:50
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They didn't. It was the Americans.

Seymour Myron "Sy" Hersh has investigated and exposed How America took out the Nord Stream pipeline:

Last June, the Navy divers, operating under the cover of a widely publicized mid-summer NATO exercise known as BALTOPS 22, planted the remotely triggered explosives that, three months later, destroyed three of the four Nord Stream pipelines, according to a source with direct knowledge of the operational planning.

... Two of the pipelines, which were known collectively as Nord Stream 1, had been providing Germany and much of Western Europe with cheap Russian natural gas for more than a decade. A second pair of pipelines, called Nord Stream 2, had been built but were not yet operational ... President Biden and his foreign policy team ... had been vocal and consistent in their hostility to the two pipelines, which ran side by side for 750 miles under the Baltic Sea from two different ports in northeastern Russia near the Estonian border, passing close to the Danish island of Bornholm before ending in northern Germany.

... From its earliest days, Nord Stream 1 was seen by Washington and its anti-Russian NATO partners as a threat to western dominance.

For those casting aspersions on him, I can only add that his journalistic history - like reports on the Mỹ Lai Massacre cover-up in the Vietnam war (for which he won the Pulitzer award) or the Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo prison scandal where CIA sanctioned tortures - highlights his unbiased anti-establishment views when it comes to exposing wartime crimes or puncturing wartime propaganda. He is unbiased and has not spared either the Clintons or the Bush in his reports. (All this strongly indicates why he is in the NSA watchlist and why administrations fearful of criticism have tried to continuously discredit him).


Unless it's a political miscalculation by Putin's government, it isn't really in Russia's interest.

There are some good points that @o-m made in his answer. (He forgot to mention that it could also be a false-flag operation to generate doubts and sympathy for Russia from Europeans who are suspicious of the Americans and the British). An important thing to note though is that all the reasons highlighted only offer a temporary short-term political advantage to Russia.

In the long run, this is actually quite detrimental to Russia for the following reasons:

  1. Economical Impact - Russia has made huge investment in creating energy infrastructure in Europe, and it's economy is quite dependent on selling oil and gas. Any competition and loss here has a negative impact on the Russian economy.

  2. Loss of political goodwill: The more countries become hostile to Russia, the more isolated they become in the current world order. This leaves less room political and diplomatic manoeuvring in international affairs.

The current disruption allows its rivals to harm Russian interests and even gain over it (see Why does the U.S. oppose the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project?). Russia understands that losing EU as a client would be a huge blow for it both politically and economically. Note that Russia was, so far, the dominant source and supplier of natural gas to Europe for a long time.

In terms of "gas politics", there are two possible beneficiaries that derive long-term political and economic advantage - the United States and the EU.

How the United States stands to benefit

In late 1981, President Ronald Reagan opposed the construction of an early gas pipeline and imposed an embargo on sales by U.S. firms, arguing that the gas pipeline would make Western Europe too dependent on the Soviet Union. Reagan even approved a covert CIA effort to blow up part of the pipeline, which ended in only a modest construction delay. - Washington Post

The war in Ukraine and blowing up the pipeline works in favour of the US as it has rightly made EU jittery about their dependence on cheap Russian gas. The US, which has always been unhappy (for both economic and political reason) with EU buying Russian gas, has now found a big foothold to capture the EU market at the expense of Russia.

And it is a fact that the US is benefiting at the expense of Russia and EU. In fact, Europe accuses US of profiting from the war :

"The fact is, if you look at it soberly, the country that is most profiting from this war is the U.S. because they are selling more gas and at higher prices, and because they are selling more weapons," one senior official told POLITICO ... As they attempt to reduce their reliance on Russian energy, EU countries are turning to gas from the U.S. instead — but the price Europeans pay is almost four times as high as the same fuel costs in America ... French President Emmanuel Macron said high U.S. gas prices were not "friendly" and Germany's economy minister has called on Washington to show more “solidarity” and help reduce energy costs.

...The diplomat argued that a discount on gas prices could help us to "keep united our public opinions” and to negotiate with third countries on gas supplies. "It's not good, in terms of optics, to give the impression that your best ally is actually making huge profits out of your troubles," the diplomat said.

(And, as I pointed out before, they have been doing everything they can to sabotage Russia's Nord Stream 2.)

Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs in his testimony to the UN on the Nord Stream Pipeline destruction also highlighted that the political views from US politicians seemed to strongly suggest that the US (and allies) were behind the act, as otherwise they should have been outraged at what was an act of international terrorism instead of seemingly celebrating it:

... Senior US officials made statements before and after the Nord Stream destruction that showed the US animus towards the pipelines. On January 27, 2022, Under-Secretary of State Victoria Nuland tweeted, “If Russia invades Ukraine, one way or another, Nord Stream 2 will not move forward.” On February 7, 2022, President Biden said, “If Russia invades… again, then there will be longer Nord Stream 2. We will bring an end to it.” When asked by the reporter how he would do that, he responded, “I promise you we will be able to do it.”

On September 30, 2022 immediately following the terrorist attack on the pipeline, Secretary of State Antony Blinken declared that the destruction of the pipeline is “also a tremendous opportunity. It’s a tremendous opportunity to once and for all remove the dependence on Russian energy and thus to take away from Vladimir Putin the weaponisation of energy as a means of advancing his imperial designs.” On January 28, 2023, Under-Secretary Nuland declared to Senator Ted Cruz, “I am, and I think the administration is, very gratified to know that Nord Stream 2 is now, as you like to say, a hunk of metal at the bottom of the sea.”

Such language is not at all appropriate in the face of international terrorism. I hope that the US together with all other Security Council members will condemn this heinous act of international terrorism and join together in an urgent UNSC-led investigation of this international crime in order to determine the truth. The truth is not yet known by the world, but it is knowable.

His views do lend credence to the suggestion that the US did consider the pipelines to be a legitimate military target, and hence attacked it. Especially when you also consider that the US media tried to shut him down when he tried to air the same views publicly in an interview.

How the EU stands to benefit

"We are trying to wean ourselves off Russian gas," the policymaker said. "When the time comes in 2028, 2029, 2030, and Russia decides to close us out, we can be like, 'Fine.'"

Without diversification EU has to be dependent on Russia, which isn't politically desirable due to their past conflicts and EU's alliance with the US and UK (NATO). But the problem EU faces is that Russian gas is really, really cheap. This makes it difficult for EU countries to buy gas from other sources as it would be an economically unpopular decision with their voters.

Any fix to a total, immediate split from Russia would require sacrifice across the continent — something that would be painful for European politicians who are wary of infuriating their voters.

"It takes time to build out renewables and to electrify heating and diversify fuels for heavy industry," Bordoff said. "And it takes time to build infrastructure needed to pull natural gas from world markets. Russia is still the cheapest gas into Europe. So you have to be willing to pay a premium" for more expensive liquefied natural gas.

Note that countries in the EU offer energy (gas or electricity generated with gas) to their citizens at a subsidised rate, clearly indicating how sensitive the consumer is to the price. This is a huge political hurdle to diversification as all the other sources are costlier than Russian gas, which means either the government will have to spend more on subsidy or pass on the cost to the consumer - both of which can anger voters.

The Ukraine war and the disruption of the Nord pipeline creates a political climate of fear and uncertainty with the Europeans that presents a good political opportunity to push for diversification to the public. While Russian gas still remains cheap, the current public hostility to Russia allows EU politicians to develop alternate infrastructure in the hopes that it may make gas from other sources cheaper and competitive enough to eschew Russian gas if necessary.

... The alternatives to Russian gas are complicated and will take time. Even facilities for liquefied natural gas exports to Europe need several years to expand. Gas suppliers need to build more capacity to cool it to the ultralow temperatures that allow it to be transported by specialized seagoing tankers. Europe needs to build more plants to warm the gas so that it can be sent through pipelines. Another alternative, nuclear, also has a complicated future in Europe, with long building times and some countries opposed.

Source: E.U. will unveil a strategy to break free from Russian gas, after decades of dependence

"The fact is that U.S. LNG, if priced competitively, can play and increasing role in EU gas supply, enhancing diversification and EU energy security," the EU said in a document detailing the state of EU-U.S. LNG trade in late November ... Showing the extent of much of the EU’s reliance on Russian gas, the Commission noted that 11 member states (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Hungary, Austria, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia and Finland) imported more than 75 percent of total national imports of natural gas from Russia in 2018, largely due to their proximity to the country ... there are other reasons to increase imports from the U.S. right now, including having a diversity of supply source and pricing ...

Source: Europe is fast-becoming a natural gas battleground for Russia and the US

Note though this doesn't mean that EU will stop buying Russian gas. They would be stupid to do so when the whole point is diversification of supply sources to reduce political pressure from one source, and to increase competition that helps in reducing prices.

Ultimately, analysts say, a partial transition from Russian energy may be all that is necessary — and a goal that is in reach. "Europe doesn’t have to completely eliminate its dependence on Russian gas. It just has to neutralize its potency as a point of leverage," Ladislaw said. "It takes a lot of work to back out a fuel like gas, and Europe has been well on its way to doing this over the last five years. It just needs to do more now."

Source: E.U. will unveil a strategy to break free from Russian gas, after decades of dependence

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    I would suggest that there is/was a third major beneficiary of the pipeline being destroyed: Ukraine, as it destroyed a major lever Russia had on the EU.
    – Smith
    Jan 2, 2023 at 15:36
  • 4
    This guy is a conspiracy theorist who makes up increasingly outwordly claims for about 10 years now and just adds one more "one anonymous person who absolutely knows that told me..." to his personal blog since no reputable media outlet would ever let him write for them for years now. Feb 9, 2023 at 18:35
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    The US, contrary to Russia, does not have "wartime propaganda" since they are not at war. And while he was a good journalist at some point, he went down a conspiracy rabbit-hole for a decade now and did not write anything that could be confirmed independently since then. Feb 9, 2023 at 20:58
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    @sfxedit your link under Hersh's name leads to an article that has no mentions of him. Did you mean to link that, or something else? Also, neither of the two links in that section of your answer leads to the article quoted, and neither mentions Hersh. Regarding the article itself: all of Hersh's claims are based off a single anonymous source, and thus can't be independently verified - not quite the quality level seen in his Pulitzer-winning publications. The rest of the answer seems better sourced. Feb 10, 2023 at 5:38
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    Biden literally said that there will be no more nord stream and now there is no nord stream. what is there to argue about?
    – anm767
    Feb 13, 2023 at 21:01
3

The destruction had the potential to weaken Germany's resolve to sanction and isolate Russia while arming Ukraine.

I'm focusing on Germany because it is very powerful and very dependent on Russian oil and on that pipeline in particular. The same arguments apply to other countries to a lesser extent.

Prior to the pipeline destruction, Germany could play hardball secure in the knowledge that it could decide to cave later and get oil from that pipeline the following day. Waiting to exhaust the very last oil reserves and then cave was relatively safe.

After the pipeline destruction, Germany knew it would only get oil from that pipeline if it caved months in advance. Waiting to exhaust the very last oil reserves and then cave was less safe.

2

Destruction of NS-1 pipeline may have been a signal to the Western countries that provide military, humanitarian and political aid to Ukraine to not interfere with the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Russia may also be signaling that it is willing to target civilian infrastructure of the unfriendly countries (undersea communications cables, etc).

REFERENCES:

If perpetrated by Russia, the signaling value toward the West—which would certainly know Russia is behind the explosions—may be a threat to the rest of the marine energy infrastructure. Back in 2021, Putin told a gathering of military leaders: " If our Western colleagues continue the obviously aggressive stance, we will take appropriate retaliatory military-technical measures and react harshly to unfriendly steps. I want to emphasize that we have every right to do so." Was the Nord Stream attack a hint that similar mishaps might happen to some or all of the seven major pipelines delivering Norwegian gas to the UK and continental Europe? The explosions coincided with the inauguration of the Baltic Pipe taking Norwegian gas to Poland, so this is hardly an academic hypothesis.

Sergey Vakulenko, "Shock and Awe: Who Attacked the Nord Stream Pipelines?" Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, September 30, 2022: https://carnegieendowment.org/politika/88062


Q3: If Russia is responsible, why would it attack Russian-owned infrastructure?

A3: European leaders have indicated they suspect sabotage, especially given three pipelines experienced explosions in quick succession. The chief suspect is the Russian Federation, which has the motive, the means, and the opportunity to conduct such an operation.

Context is important. The explosions come after Russia has mobilized for war, organized sham referendums, and made nuclear threats to make up for its floundering invasion of Ukraine. Russia may feel the West is underestimating its strength and wants to send a clear message that it must be taken seriously.

However, the Kremlin’s motives for conducting an attack on its own pipelines are not fully clear. Russia may be warning and signaling to Europe and the West that it is willing to target civilian infrastructure. Attacks on gas pipelines today could foreshadow attacks on undersea data cables tomorrow. In other words, Russia is signaling that it could escalate its hybrid warfare or gray zone efforts against the West—moving from disinformation and influence efforts to a more kinetic direction targeting infrastructure (an approach that could also include attacks in cyberspace, as discussed above).

Additionally, by severing the pipelines carrying Russian gas to Europe, Russia could be signaling to Europe that it is Russia, not Europe, that has decided to cut energy ties and decouple and that there is no going back. This would seem to contradict the conventional wisdom that Russia was hoping Europe will buckle this winter due to rising energy costs and will seek to pull back from sanctions and pressure Ukraine to negotiate. But Putin may have realized that such hopes were fanciful—especially as Europe has found ways to restock its gas supply for the winter—and is now resorting to new tactics.

Joseph Majkut et al., "Security Implications of Nord Stream Sabotage", The Center for Strategic and International Studies, September 29, 2022: https://carnegieendowment.org/politika/88062

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    Destroying their own pipeline (in which they had invested billions) for some "signal"? The pipeline which they built exactly to be able to sell gas NOT through the Ukrainian pipeline. And now they will be FORCED to sell more gas through Ukraine and pay more money to Ukraine for transit. People here are trying to find Russian interest in this with a microscope.
    – CITBL
    Dec 31, 2022 at 12:08
  • 3
    @CITBL Frankly I think it's more likely the USA blew up the pipeline because they were annoyed with their flaky German allies, but the question is specifically about advantages for Russia and this answer lists one such advantage. It doesn't matter how much they already invested in it, the future earnings to be expected from the pipeline were low or at least uncertain.
    – Nobody
    Jan 1, 2023 at 19:26
  • In response to those who repeat Russian propaganda in the Q&A and comments here and elsewhere, as well as those who take this propaganda at face value, see "U.S. podcasters spread Kremlin narratives on Nord Stream sabotage", October 3, 2022, Jessica Brandt and Valerie Wirtschafter, Brookings Institution: brookings.edu/techstream/… Jan 3, 2023 at 4:53
1

One theory is that this was a carefully calibrated act "to provoke or create fear" in the Western countries, while avoiding giving any reason for a direct response:¹

The Nord Stream 1 pipeline between Russia and Germany is 51% owned by Gazprom, the St Petersburg-headquartered energy giant, while Nord Stream 2 is owned by a Swiss subsidiary of the same company. None of those assets would, by this thinking, demand any kind of Nato or other western military response....

The episode bears some resemblance to a series of incidents that affected oil tankers in the Gulf three years ago, carefully calibrated to provoke or create fear – but not to do profound damage. In one case, limpet mines were attached to a Japanese flagged tanker, blowing a hole just above the waterline.

In that sense, if the attack was indeed by Russia, it was a success.

However, there are plenty of other effects of this that appear to be detrimental to Russia. As you point out, Russia has now lost some of its capability to return to supplying gas to Europe, which weakens its negotiation position for ending the war on its terms. Further, as explained in sfxedit's answer, this has directly benefited the U.S. and made it, in certain ways, easier for Europe to further decouple itself from dependency on Russian gas.

So if the attack was indeed made by Russia, it could be seen as an attempt to replicate a previously used strategy that that didn't work as well this time due to a somewhat different situation.


¹ "Whether or not Russia was behind the Nord Stream blasts, little was at stake," The Guardian, 2022-09-27.

-2

"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"

2
  • 4
    Do not understand what do you want to say.
    – Stančikas
    Oct 3, 2022 at 12:56
  • @Stančikas He is possibly getting at what I tried to explain in my answer.
    – cjs
    Oct 4, 2022 at 2:11
-4

The West has very sophisticated covert operations and intelligence services, even more so than Russia.

If no evidence has surfaced, it implies a covert sophistication beyond Russias covert capabilities. Russia has instances of leaving 2500km of covert radioactive breadcrumbs, reality-TV records of spy travels including their names and weapons, sinking and crashing submarines:

Russia has had fires and crashes on it's military submarine fleet: 2000(118 dead) 2005(fire) 2006(fire) 2008(crash) 2008(20 dead) 2009(crash) 2011(fire) 2012(crash) 2013(fire) 2017(harbor crash) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Russian_submarine_accidents

They would have to deploy boats in a very intensely surveyed area where all boats are currently tracked.

Nordstream 1+2 cost 20bn and was funded and owned by Gasprom.

Nordstream 1 shipped 59 billion cubic meters of gas per year, so in total it displaced 100-250 billion dollars of gas since inception in 2011. It was also a tool for blackmail.

For many years, Putin has promoted the pipeline, lobbied, subsidised, it was his battle against the USA to get the pipeline built.

  • Putin says Russia is ready to resume Nord Stream gas 10-2022
  • Putin and Merkel meet to find solution on gas pipeline 2020
  • Trump approves sanctions on Russia gas pipeline 2018
  • Putin seeks common cause with Merkel over Trump 2018
  • Merkel Not Ruling Out Nord Stream Fallout Over Navalny 2020
  • Chancellor Angela Merkel called a fresh agreement with President Joe Biden over the Nord Stream 2 gas connection a good step 2018

It was a pipeline of very high disregard / value to different parties.

For Putin it was undoubtedly of very high value, a multi billion dollar loss for his own personal wealth and for Russian equity.

11
  • 7
    "If no evidence has surfaced, it implies a covert sophistication beyond Russias covert capabilities." This goes very much in the direction of conspiracy theories, as in "the evidence is that there is no evidence."
    – redleo85
    Jan 1, 2023 at 0:06
  • A statistical inclination and a motive are all the leads that the maritime police possess. I'm sure you'd agree that it was a covert military operation of unknown parties with explosives, no satellite data, no photos, no logistical leaks... No motive? What theoretical framework would you condone, what motive? It requires a thread of it's own, no satellite or shipping data in the baltic implies a submarine operation of an odd and meticulous nature. Are you aware of shipping evidence? Jan 1, 2023 at 2:56
  • Added that it cost gasprom, treasury 11bn. Owned by gasprom. Jan 1, 2023 at 8:02
  • 1
    @user253751 I added a list of submarine accidents from Russia. You mean they lost 118 people on the kursk, 42 on a more recent accident, and 20 on another accident, all in the 2000's including various other fires and crashes, like crashing into the indian harbor and getting tangled in cables, as a trick? Jan 5, 2023 at 8:25
  • 1
    What is the point in trying to think if you have a stupid brain? What is the point of trying to do a complicated underwater operation to destroy 150 billion lb worth of property if you don't even have the covert capabilities to do it? Conflict of interest Jan 7, 2023 at 8:40
-7

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.

3
  • 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. Oct 3, 2022 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, 2022 at 14:24
  • 3
    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, 2022 at 2:02

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