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Last night, the twin pipelines supplying Russian natural gas to Germany blew up. Specifically, they were both breached below the surface of the Baltic Sea, near Danish and Swedish territorial waters. Almost certainly sabotage, based both on the time coincidence, and a Swedish seismologist’s estimate that at least 100kg of explosive was used.
This sabotage was not a trivial exercise. It would presumably require a ROV, large underwater drone and/or a submarine to place the charges accurately. There’s a limited supply of such equipment and expertise. And it would likely require a large enough team that it will eventually leak, even if there’s no obvious forensic information to be gathered.
Qui bono? Certainly Ukraine. Russia’s ability to use energy blackmail against Germany in particular and Europe in general has been eliminated at a stroke. But they are notably short of a navy and the required equipment and experts.
By the same token, unlikely to be official Russian actions. Putin’s ability to turn the tap on and off at will was just eliminated. Much is being made by the fact that it happened the same day a new gas pipeline from Scandinavia to the mainland was opened, but you don’t generally threaten your enemy’s asset by destroying your own.
But Russia does have the necessary equipment and expertise, so there’s a chance that a military faction that wants to get rid of Putin but has no way to directly confront him would comprise his negotiating position in a reversible fashion (pipelines can be repaired).
After that, the circle gets pretty wide. The US certainly has the required abilities, as likely do the UK, France, and a few others. Any pipeline or marine salvage company probably also could pull it off in a pinch, but keeping that secret would be hard, I’d think.
So the strategic background to Ukraine vs. Russia just shifted dramatically, and we don’t yet know who or why.Published in