NATO Attributes Nord Stream Leaks to ‘Sabotage,’ Threatens Military Response

NATO has concluded that the leaks that recently emerged on the Nord Stream pipelines were the result of sabotage by some unknown actor, the military alliance announced in a Thursday statement.

The North Atlantic Council, the decision-making body for NATO, didn’t name a culprit in the statement, but threatened a military response against the responsible party.

“All currently available information indicates that this is the result of deliberate, reckless, and irresponsible acts of sabotage,” the council said in a statement. “We, as Allies, have committed to prepare for, deter and defend against the coercive use of energy and other hybrid tactics by state and non-state actors.  Any deliberate attack against Allies’ critical infrastructure would be met with a united and determined response.”

NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said separately on Twitter that the alliance is “ready to defend” critical energy infrastructure from assault.

“Discussed the sabotage on the #NorthStream pipelines with Defence Minister @mfMorten of our valued Ally #Denmark. We addressed the protection of critical infrastructure in #NATO countries,” Jens Stoltenberg tweeted. NATO said it would be ready to defend its infrastructure from assault.

The European Union on Wednesday similarly vowed to deliver  a “robust” response to any attack on its energy network after its foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said the leaks looked to be a “deliberate act.”

Nord Stream 1 and 2, neither of which are currently active, both showed sudden losses of pressure late on Monday, likely caused by a leak from large holes in the pipelines, German and Danish officials said. Nord Stream 1 paused movement of gas between Russia and Germany for maintenance in August, and Nord Stream 2’s construction was halted after Russian invaded Ukraine in February.

European seismologists have concluded that the leaks were very likely triggered by powerful underwater blasts rather than a natural event. Some countries’ officials have speculated that Russia is behind the explosions.

Mateusz Morawiecki, Poland’s prime minister, blamed Russia, claiming it aimed to further destabilize Europe’s energy security.

“We do not know the details of what happened yet, but we can clearly see that it is an act of sabotage,” Morawiecki said. “An act that probably marks the next stage in the escalation of this situation in Ukraine.”

After meeting with Stoltenberg, Morten Bødskov, Denmark’s defense head, called for the alliance to be on high alert and prepare for more provocations from Russia,

“Russia has a significant military presence in the Baltic Sea region and we expect them to continue their saber-rattling,” Morten Bodskov said in a statement on Wednesday.

However, some have asked what incentive Russia had to blow up the pipelines, given that they cost over $20 billion and are the only direct avenue Russia has to exercise control over the West by manipulating gas exports.

Amid Europe’s energy crunch, exacerbated by the war Russia is waging in Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin said earlier this month that Europe should end the penalties on Nord Stream 2 to expand its energy supply.

“The bottom line is,” he said on September 16, “if you have an urge, if it’s so hard for you, just lift the sanctions on Nord Stream 2, which is 55 billion cubic metres of gas per year, just push the button and everything will get going.”

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