Nord Stream Pipeline Sabotaged; EU Blames Russia

The CIA warned of his months ago but the Biden administration is being cautious.

Reuters (“EU vows to protect energy systems after ‘sabotage’ on Russian gas pipelines“):

Any deliberate disruption to the EU’s energy infrastructure would meet a “robust and united response”, its top diplomat said, after several states said two Russian pipelines to Europe that have been churning gas into the Baltic had been attacked.

It remained far from clear who might be behind the leaks or any foul play, if proven, on the Nord Stream pipelines that Russia and European partners spent billions of dollars building.

Russia, which slashed gas deliveries to Europe after the West imposed sanctions over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, has also said sabotage was a possibility and that the leaks undermined the continent’s energy security.

The European Union believes sabotage probably caused the leaks detected on Monday in the Nord Stream pipelines, Josep Borrell was reported as saying by German broadcaster ntv, echoing views aired by Germany, Denmark and Sweden on Tuesday. The EU has not named a potential perpetrator of the suspected sabotage or suggested a reason behind it. “Any deliberate disruption of European energy infrastructure is utterly unacceptable and will be met with a robust and united response,” Borrell said, according to ntv.

A statement issued by Russia’s embassy in Denmark said that any sabotage on Nord Stream’s pipelines was an attack on both Russia’s and Europe’s energy security. “The unsubstantiated accusations and assumptions that are now being made everywhere are intended to create information noise and prevent an objective and impartial investigation,” Russia’s statement said.

Denmark’s defence minister, meanwhile, said on Wednesday there was reason to be concerned about the security situation in the Baltic Sea region following a meeting with NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels. “Russia has a significant military presence in the Baltic Sea region and we expect them to continue their sabre-rattling,” Morten Bodskov said in a statement.

In a sign of how long it might take to ascertain the full extent of the damage and the cause of the leaks, Bodskov also said it might take a week or perhaps two before the areas around the damaged pipelines were calm enough to be investigated.

WaPo (“European leaders blame Russian ‘sabotage’ after Nord Stream explosions“):

European leaders said Tuesday they believed dual explosions that damaged pipelines built to carry Russian natural gas to Europe were deliberate, and some officials blamed the Kremlin, suggesting the blasts were intended as a threat to the continent.

The damage did not have an immediate impact on Europe’s energy supplies. Russia cut off flows earlier this month, and European countries had scrambled to build up stockpiles and secure alternative energy sources before that.

But the episode is likely to mark a final end to the Nord Stream pipeline projects, a more-than-two-decade effort that deepened Europe’s dependence on Russian natural gas — and that many officials now say was a grave strategic mistake.

The pair of explosions Monday produced leaks in all three of the underwater Nord Stream pipelines that connect Russia and Germany, causing massive plumes of gas bubbles to break the surface of the Baltic Sea.

“These are deliberate actions, not an accident,” Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen told reporters Tuesday. “The situation is as serious as it gets.”

Frederiksen said the explosions, just off the coast of the Danish island of Bornholm, were not “an attack on Denmark,” since they took place in international waters. But Danish military leaders on Tuesday dispatched the Absalon, one of their top-of-the-line frigates, along with other patrol ships, to guard the island. Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod was calling other NATO counterparts to discuss the situation, according to a senior European diplomat who was familiar with the conversations and who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk frankly about internal security.

“We do not know the details of what happened yet, but we can clearly see that it is an act of sabotage,” Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told reporters Tuesday.

The act “probably marks the next stage in the escalation of this situation in Ukraine,” Morawiecki said. He was speaking at a ceremony to open the new Baltic Pipe undersea pipeline that gives Poland and its neighbors access to Norwegian natural gas. The project was intended to reduce dependence on the gas that once flowed from Russia.

NYT (“The C.I.A. had warned European governments of potential attacks on pipelines.“):

The C.I.A. issued a vague warning in June to a number of European nations, including Germany, that the two Nord Stream gas pipelines that carry natural gas from Russia could be targeted in forthcoming attacks, three senior officials familiar with the intelligence said on Tuesday.

The warning was not specific, the officials said, and they declined to say whether Russia itself was identified as a possible attacker. American officials said that while it appeared likely that the damage to the pipelines was the result of sabotage, they had reached no conclusion about who might have been responsible. Both pipelines suffered a sudden loss of pressure and released gas into the sea, European officials reported, and the chances that both suffered accidents nearly simultaneously seem low.

The German publication Der Spiegel was the first to report that the U.S. had provided what intelligence officials call “strategic warning” of a possible attack — a warning that came with no specifics about the likely time or place or manner of a potential strike.

The C.I.A. declined to comment on the warning.

Unlike the EU, the US Government is being publicly cautious:

The Biden administration, which in the run-up to the war often accused Russia of planning attacks on Ukraine, was careful on Tuesday not to blame Moscow — or anyone else. At a White House news briefing on Tuesday, Karine Jean-Pierre, the press secretary, said she was not going to “speculate on the cause of this.”

“Our partners are investigating this, so we stand ready to provide support to their efforts once they have completed their investigation,” she said. Several officials cautioned that because the warning was three months old, it may not be connected to the most recent incidents.

Ms. Jean-Pierre noted that the pipelines were not actively pumping gas into Europe when the pressure loss occurred. The older pipeline, Nord Stream 1, has not moved gas into Europe for weeks, with the Russians claiming they needed to do maintenance and repair work. That was widely seen in Europe as a warning that President Vladimir V. Putin could turn gas off as winter approaches, depending on whether Europe abandons the Western-led sanctions imposed after the Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.

The newer pipeline, Nord Stream 2, has never been operational and Germany said it was canceling its part of the project shortly after the invasion.

And avoiding blaming Russia seems smart here:

Officials cautioned that it would be premature to conclude that Russia was behind the episode. Precisely because Mr. Putin seeks to show he has his finger on the gas valve, they noted, he may well want to keep the pipeline in good working order. A breach of the pipelines, if hard to repair, could hamper how he can control his leverage.

While some European governments were quick to charge Russian sabotage, American government officials said other possibilities also existed that could explain what happened.

Mr. Putin’s government could have been trying to manipulate the pipeline somehow and inadvertently caused an accident, or, potentially, another country could have caused the leak in order to prevent Russia from profiting from the elevated energy prices. Nongovernmental actors could be behind the sabotage.

It also remains possible, even if unlikely, that no sabotage was involved and a pure accident caused the leak.

Given that the CIA apparently had intelligence of a possible attack months ago, “pure accident” seems highly implausible. But, yes, sabotaging one’s own pipeline in this case is a bizarre move, indeed.

Earlier this week, the main directorate of the Ukrainian intelligence service posted a warning on Facebook that “the Kremlin is planning to carry out massive cyberattacks on the critical infrastructure facilities of Ukrainian enterprises and critical infrastructure institutions of Ukraine’s allies. Attacks will be aimed at energy sector enterprises.” But it noted that those could also be combined with physical attacks.

Coming from the Ukrainians, it’s hard to distinguish “intelligence” from propaganda. Obviously, it’s in their interest to portray Russia in the worst possible light.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Lounsbury says:

    But, yes, sabotaging one’s own pipeline in this case is a bizarre move, indeed.

    It’s not really bizarre. It is very FSB style.

    (1) Nord 1 is in long-term suspension at their own choice, Nord 2 a pure stranded asset given no EU/German authorisation. Gas lost is nothing compared to flaring. Asset damage cost is theoretical and nothing compared to war damage ongoing in Ukraine theatre.
    (2) The sites struck are near the newly operational Norwg.-Baltic piple, in Danish territorial waters, the message is clear. “We can do this, and here with our standed asset is a small demo.”
    (3) the pressure generated on W. Europe on energy pricing including insurance, naval assets diverted adds cost on cost, and fits perfectly for Russian strategy of pressurizing EU / Europe to crack during the winter under energy cost pressure.

    6
  2. Michael Reynolds says:

    At the very least Europeans should close all roads and block all shipping going to Kaliningrad. I don’t know who supplies the water and power to Kaliningrad, but if it’s possible, shut that off.
    Remind the Russians that they have a foothold on the Baltic which can be shut down if they insist on playing the game this way.

    We need to be ready for a Russian demonstration nuke as well, maybe in the Black Sea. We have subs shadowing Russian nuclear subs, and if Putin pops off a nuke we should send one or more of their boomers to the bottom.

    2
  3. gVOR08 says:

    Anti-Americans are blaming the U. S. for the attack. Here, via Kevin Drum, is Tucker Carlson.

    3
  4. drj says:

    @Lounsbury:

    It’s not really bizarre. It is very FSB style.

    I can sort of see Russia’s reasoning (if your scenario is correct – which it probably is), but it’s still completely bonkers IMO.

    If the EU gives in to this kind of blackmail, it’ll be Russia’s poodle for ever and ever.

    It’s the same with “We organized these sham referendums and now it’s Russia. And if you don’t acquiesce, we’ll nuke you.”

    It’s simply too much. There is no upside to paying the blackmailer here, because the only precedent it sets is even more trouble in the future. It’s Ukraine now, but if this this works, it’ll be the Baltics and Poland in the future.

    This only makes sense if you have some mad idea about all the Euros being completely degenerate weaklings – like the Ukrainians who would simply roll over.

    The Russians are still high on their own supply. Stoned out of their gourds, metaphorically speaking.

    5
  5. JohnSF says:

    The worry is if this was done by direct attack, and if Russia attempted to do this to the Norwegian Baltic Pipeline; or to Norwegian, Dutch or British pipelines in the North Sea.
    That’s Article 5 and “prosecute to kill target” orders right there.

    However, I suspect it may have been carried out by another method than a sub or divers.
    Any pipeline experts in the house?
    If there are –
    Query: can a gas pipeline transit a “pipeline pig” over long distances?

    2
  6. Lounsbury says:

    @Michael Reynolds: No, blockade is an act of war and we don’t need cowboy actions to start a nuclear war. Save that for American Action Movies.

    @drj: Russia need not play for full roll-over, a perfectly plausible play is splitting the Europeans, with S.E. Europe, Italy being plausible weak points to undermine both further sanctions and generate division, etc. – undercut routes of support for Ukraine. The Russian logic will be now the long game, the grind. Not the quick flip. On their / Putin understanding that W. Democracies have no stamina nor focus (which while exaggerated and rooted in prejudice, is not 100% wrong across the board, there are weak links).

    @JohnSF: I believe that the pipe needs to be empty.

    Regardless, I have no doubt FSB action, none. How, and what degree of plausible deniability they built in, that’s another matter.

    But this is a staggeringly dangerous move. And the timing is clearly no accident at all.

    4
  7. Lounsbury says:

    Oh come now, comment waiting for Moderation???

  8. drj says:

    @JohnSF:

    However, I suspect it may have been carried out by another method

    Conceivably. But if direct attack is out of the question (for now) then it’s not really a threat (yet) against non-Russian pipelines, is it?

    In which case: what is the message?

    If you’re right, this looks like some weird threat that was decided by committee and resulted in compromise.

    Which isn’t necessarily the best way to attempt coercive diplomacy.

  9. Kevin McKenzie says:

    This seems like something Russia would do, but why? At some level, removing the ability of Russia to supply Europe with energy, while bad from a humanitarian point of view, would be good for Ukraine, because it completely removes the ability of Russia to threaten Europe with turning the gas supply off. If Russia is incapable of supplying gas to Europe, there’s no reason for Europe not to support Ukraine. But given the number of own goals by Putin so far, it’s entirely possible.

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  10. Jon says:

    @JohnSF:

    Query: can a gas pipeline transit a “pipeline pig” over long distances?

    Well if James Bond movies are accurate, and I have no reason to believe they’re not, they sure can!

    3
  11. Modulo Myself says:

    Much like the assassination of Dugin’s daughter, there’s no reason for the Ukraine or NATO or America to do this. The price of getting caught is astronomical, and there’s no real benefit to doing this. Whereas if you work for Putin and he is demanding action and it’s your career/life on the line, you do stunts like these, and then you give him a bunch of fake stats about the confusion sowed, and show him a clip of Tucker Carlson on Fox, and say America is at the mercy of our black arts, and then hope for the best.

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  12. James Joyner says:

    @Lounsbury: You mistyped your email address, leaving off the last letter, thus automatically sending the comment to moderation since that user/email combo hadn’t previously had a comment approved.

    7
  13. Joe says:

    I had the same thought about a pig, but if you are correct, JohnSF and Jon, it would seem that any pictures of the damage would make it clear that this was – pun intended – an inside job by someone on one end of the pipeline.

    1
  14. Lounsbury says:

    @Kevin McKenzie: Russia is perfectly capable of supplying NatGas via the still opererating terrestrial pipelines etc. (Russian gas is still flowing via these). And these without regard to the otherwise stranded asssets of Nord2 or Nord1 (the 2nd self-shut by the Russians anyway). Repair is without doubt feasible but not of immediate concern.

    This action has not prevented in any way Russian ability to turn on gas again or rather up flows on existing.

    What it has done is fire a shot across Scandinavian/North Sea supplier bows, stating “we can do this, we are even willing to.”

    2
  15. Andy says:

    I would just caution everyone not to jump to conclusions. I think the Biden administration is taking the appropriate tack here. The fact of the matter is that we don’t have any evidence pointing to any particular actor, so any conclusion that one country or party is responsible is – at best – premature.

    Right now, all we have to go on is a rough and imperfect assessment of capabilities to do something like this combined with motives. The motives are a mixed bag. Turning to capabilities leaves us with a list of countries.

    @JohnSF:

    Query: can a gas pipeline transit a “pipeline pig” over long distances?

    I don’t know the answer, but once the damage can be inspected, it will be clear if the pipeline was damaged from the inside or the outside.

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Tell me how you want nuclear war without telling me you want nuclear war.

    At this point, there is no reason for NATO, the US, or Europe to escalate. Ukraine is winning, and the long-term trends are going against Russia. Handing Russia a casus belli for no good reason is dumb, and it’s also something a non-trivial contingent of the Russian leadership would welcome. And to be perfectly frank, the US is the leader of NATO and doing the bulk of the heaving lifting, and we should not allow the tail to wag the dog. Lithuania and Poland are de facto protectorates, and they should be discouraged from taking actions that will start a wider war.

    5
  16. MarkedMan says:

    @Kevin McKenzie:

    If Russia is incapable of supplying gas to Europe, there’s no reason for Europe not to support Ukraine.

    Exactly! This is where I get hung up. The Russian strategy has been to show that it can turn on and off Europe’s gas supply at will. Unless they can repair this pronto, they no longer have that ability. In fact, until and unless it is repaired it removes energy from the equation.

    I realized I’m basing my analysis solely on the dreaded “common sense”, but it seems to me the one clear winner is Ukraine. Or am I missing something?

    1
  17. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Andy: I would just caution everyone not to jump to conclusions.

    But but but that’s what the internet is for. 😉

    9
  18. Kevin says:

    @Lounsbury: understood; Russia can supply natural gas without the pipelines. But actions like this, assuming it is Russia, make Russia even more of a unreliable partner than it already was, and make it even more clear that Europe needs to stop relying on Russian natural gas. The madman theory doesn’t work for commodities. Hostage taking only works until you shoot the hostage. And if people get the impression that you’re going to shoot the hostage anyway, or might on a whim, they’re less likely to negotiate with you, not more.

  19. Kevin McKenzie says:

    I did just read an interesting theory that this might be Russia/Gasprom’s attempt to avoid penalties for their non-delivery of contracted gas; this would let them claim force majure.

    2
  20. drj says:

    @Lounsbury:

    Russia need not play for full roll-over, a perfectly plausible play is splitting the Europeans

    I’m not disputing that. It’s just that threats like this are utterly counterproductive, IMO. Russia should go for “Why should we suffer for some country far way?” instead of “Do as I say, or I’ll blow up your infrastructure.”

    The latter approach makes it harder for European countries to give in to Russian pressure. Even someone like Orbán won’t be willing to be seen as giving in to Russian blackmail.

  21. JohnSF says:

    @MarkedMan:
    The overland pipelines are still running.
    In fact, Nordstream 2 had never come into operation, and Nordstream 1 has been shut down since the end of August.

    IIRC the rest are all still running apart from the short pipes into the Baltic States.
    Even those that cross Ukraine.

    “Pigs” can be used in active liquid pipes; they are often used for instance in multi-product pipelines, for flow separation.
    Gas, dunno.

    Wikipedia article.

    Why do I think “rig the pig”: because using a sub/divers with demolition charges is very risky.
    NATO and Sweden both carry out ASW patrols in the Baltic.

    And why blow the pipeline?
    Bright idea in the FSB?
    Possibilty: upset the gas markets?
    Results: meh.
    Futures up 10%: not good, not catastrophic.
    Also: implied threat (explosion of unknown origin! eeek!) to the North Sea pipes.
    So what?
    Threat in case of war has always been there; carry it out, and that’s a declaration of war.

    Conclusion: bloody stupid Russian games, news at 11.

  22. Lounsbury says:

    @MarkedMan:

    his is where I get hung up. The Russian strategy has been to show that it can turn on and off Europe’s gas supply at will. Unless they can repair this pronto, they no longer have that ability.

    They absolutely have that ability.

    There is substantial terrestrial capacity, see link to gas pipeline map (2014) Russian has already ratched back.

    @Kevin: No, they have OTHER pipelines and are in fact still supply at about 20% of capacity. Not without the pipelines, those two were already off, Nord1 by choice, Nord2 by EU refusal.

    [a]ssuming it is Russia, make Russia even more of a unreliable partner than it already was, and make it even more clear that Europe needs to stop relying on Russian natural gas.

    Mate, that ship sailed months ago. Why do you think EU refused certification on Nord2.
    Russian reliability was already well and truly fucked into a cocked hat.

    We have here watched the Russians invent increasingly transparent excuses for ratcheting back on pipelines that just happen to be serving certain customers, which others not. Noone in EU energy space has any bloody illusions, and even the Germans got the message months ago.

  23. Lounsbury says:

    @JohnSF: The Pig is less Plausibly Deniable (I will ask my pipeline people who are now fucking around in W Africa but I think it can be done).

    As for the risk, the Russians have been running through Scandinavian waters at elevated intensities for months now. Testing. Probing (if one is following such, media reports on this).

    @drj: Had the Putin clique been playing more stable games they wouldn’t have done the invasion at all but just kept the forces hard on the border, and let Germany et al pressure Ukraine to give concessions, etc. A game that showed in the run up every sign of working. But then Putin actually thought he’d pull off the mad dash that was clearly more a FSB game than a military game since it followed no Russian doctrine, but looked very bloody like FSB fucking around with Little Green Men again.

    Moukhaberat.

    1
  24. Lounsbury says:

    I should also direct JOhn to the lovely European Comission play toy: EU Energy Infrastructure transparency map
    (which for other work I do we draw on)

  25. Michael Cain says:

    Nord Stream 1 is majority owned by Gazprom, a Russian state company. Nord Stream 2, fully constructed but never put into operation, is entirely owned by Gazprom. Why would Russia choose to destroy its own assets, rather than, say, compressor stations on the pipelines in Ukraine that are still providing service to Western Europe?

  26. Kathy says:

    @JohnSF:

    Invoking the Jack Ryan principle: even if it doesn’t make sense to us, it must make sense to somebody.

    Kathy’s addenda: What makes sense to a delusional or insane person, does not necessarily make logical sense to sane people.

    2
  27. Lounsbury says:

    @Michael Cain: Why

    They are stranded assets that are dead economically, with elevated risk given wider developments of never ever coming back online.

    Gas transiting Ukraine is going to EU customers still who Russia is sweetening to support internal dissension, Hungary, etc. And they are providing economic flow unlike the Nords.

    As already dead and stranded assets that are not generating income, will not in a foreseeable future generate income (Nord2 has had its entire licensing cancelled), and as the area struck is right hard-up against the location of the new Baltic Pipe that same day began operations, it’s a lovely way to send a message.

    Ukraine pipelines are still serving customers who are resisting implementing or expanding sanctions and who are throwing sand in the wheels of EU support to Ukraine. Cutting their gas off would end that, as well as cut an active revenue stream (and assets that can be ramped up at will to reward Splitters inside of EU zone).

    Look at the EU map for the pipelines and service.

    1
  28. JohnSF says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    Those sort of measures ae being held in reserve for Russia crossing the Line 1: use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine.
    Jake Sullivan:

    “We have communicated directly, privately and at very high levels to the Kremlin that any use of nuclear weapons will be met with catastrophic consequences for Russia, that the US and our allies will respond decisively, and we have been clear and specific about what that will entail,”

    Or the real Red Line: direct attacks on NATO.
    This is neither.
    It was an explosion in non-territorial waters, on a non-functional Russian pipeline.
    No need to over-react.

    @Andy:

    Lithuania and Poland are de facto protectorates

    Unfortunately, sometimes a protectorate will just go right ahead and act without it’s putative protectors agreement.
    Historical cases abound.
    That’s always a potential problem if you get into being a protector.
    Sometimes it sucks to be the hegemon.

    3
  29. Jen says:

    @Kevin McKenzie: That, along with Putin’s background and FSB behavior, all make a certain amount of sense.

    1
  30. Lounsbury says:

    @JohnSF: But in Danish economic waters. It was thus quite the dangerous action.

    At least the bloody Grünen relented yesterday and the Germans are keeping two reactors running.

    The decision is the latest emergency measure adopted by the German government to deal with the energy crisis caused by Russia’s move to slash gas supplies to Germany amid escalating tensions over the war in Ukraine.

    Habeck said the electricity supply situation in France was much worse than had been predicted. More than half of the nuclear power stations in the country were offline, he said, raising the prospect of a potential shortage of electricity that would increase stress on Germany’s power system.

    It is a painful decision for Habeck, a senior figure in the German Green party, which has its roots in Germany’s anti-nuclear movement and has long insisted that all the country’s nuclear power stations must close by the end of this year.

    Long insisted even up to a couple weeks ago. Twits.

    2
  31. JohnSF says:

    @Lounsbury:

    “…Grünen relented yesterday and the Germans are keeping two reactors running.”

    Current bad-taste German joke is Greens got to blow up the pipelines as a quid pro quo.

    3
  32. Richard Gardner says:

    I’d like to see a video of a flare being shot into the methane bubble to flare it off. That would be safer than the current atmospheric release (bubble a km in diameter). Once the lines are depressurized there will be saltwater intrusion making repairs more difficult.

    The Baltic is very shallow, including the approaches of the Danish Straits. It is very likely that the pipelines’ depth at the damaged areas is within standard scuba limits. There is also no way a US submarine would have made a covert entry, the Oresund (the main shipping route between Sweden and Denmark – 8m max draft) is too shallow for a US submarine on the surface, though there is another route through the Danish archipelago that is deep enough for a surfaced transit (not covert). The saboteurs could have been on a large pleasure craft or a fishing boat.

    Who did this? Anyone looking for disruption (Russia, Ukraine, China, independent operators). In January 2022 one of the two fiber optic cables between Norway and Svalberg was severed. Also the Norwegian LoVe Ocean Observatory cabling was destroyed in 2021. By whom?

    2
  33. JohnSF says:

    @Richard Gardner:
    There’s been speculation re. Russian specialised “coastal infiltrator” subs etc.
    But I’ve seen a twitter thread (lost link; sorry) that seemed well informed, that most of that gear is laid up or out of action.
    Other possibility: RPV submersible dropped off remotely, piloted in from a distance, and in place for weeks.
    (Link is paywalled but reporters source appears to be UK MoD.)

    Have to admit, I didn’t consider a loitering RPV as an option, which is why I jumped to rigged pig.
    Maybe RPV makes more sense?
    Forensics should tell.
    Maybe.

    1
  34. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Andy: I think that MR is counting on the modern-day equivalent of Gromyko (?) shouting “do you really want to settle this in hell?”* at Khrushchev. I’m not as sanguine, myself.

    *It’s the great climax line from The Missiles of October. William Devane knocked it out of the park as JFK.

    3
  35. Andy says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Devane was great in that and in almost everything else he’s been in.

    Hope the powers that be aren’t thinking of this in terms of the Cuban Missile Crisis – the strategic situation is much different here. The assumption that the Russians (or anyone else really) will always back down to American demands is a dangerous assumption.

  36. Lounsbury says:

    @JohnSF: Re Thread, I believe the lost one is this one re lost thread quote for Twitter.

  37. dazedandconfused says:

    Some technical information on the pipeline.

    All pipelines these days can accept pigs for maintenance and inspection, however both ends are rather buried in security and deep in the midst of pipeline infrastructure it’s not easy to clandestinely get one in. Since these day locating the pipeline with bottom scanning equipment common to trawlers and fishermen would be a piece of cake, I would guess that was the way the charges were set. There is no need for anyone’s highly sophisticated naval assets to pull this off.

    1
  38. JohnSF says:

    @Andy:
    The assumption that (x will always back down to y) demands is a dangerous assumption.

    See also, the Russian assumption (from before Day 1) that everyone will always, ultimately, back down to theirs, if only they press them long enough, and forcefully enough.

  39. JohnSF says:

    @Lounsbury:
    Yeas, that’s the one!
    Congratulations on your twitter-fu.
    🙂

  40. Lounsbury says:

    @JohnSF: A pig loses all plausible deniability.
    A remote underwater vehicle, commercially available, with commercial charges, has extensive plausible deniability.

  41. Mu Yixiao says:

    @Richard Gardner:

    Who did this? Anyone looking for disruption (Russia, Ukraine, China, independent operators). In January 2022 one of the two fiber optic cables between Norway and Svalberg was severed. Also the Norwegian LoVe Ocean Observatory cabling was destroyed in 2021. By whom?

    Silurians. It interferes with their TV reception.

    5
  42. Lounsbury says:

    @JohnSF: I read it earlier and was pretty sure that was your reference…. watching this subject closely, me. I am after all in energy investment in EU “neighbourhood” – this is not at all of theoretical concern….

    (also I read this on web not the app so browser history)

  43. JohnSF says:

    @Lounsbury:
    But remember, we are talking Russia here.
    Sometimes implausible deniability is enough.
    (Or even better, for “truth destruction”purposes)
    🙂
    I am rather more inclined to RPV now though, I confess.

    Incidentally, it’s been impressive how swift off the blocks the FSB social media campaign has been, as Dmitry point out.
    Literally within hours of the rupture being reported, Russia-aligned social media were screaming “Biden diddit!”

  44. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Andy:

    . The assumption that the Russians (or anyone else really) will always back down to American demands is a dangerous assumption.

    And thus, the reason for my being less sanguine about such ideas. Plus the possibility that Putin has an added soupcon of “what happens to me isn’t important as long as you die” added for the “back against the wall” situations.

    1
  45. Lounsbury says:

    @JohnSF: Granted on implausible deniability.

    As a dezinformatsia play it’s well positioned, as look at the number of people who are unaware the Russians can perfectly well supply gas to Europe via Ukrainian or Bielorussian existing pipelines and thus think that Russia committed some real self-harm here, rather than sacrificing mere pawn (in form of stranded, possibly stranded / dead assets)

    1
  46. Andy says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    And thus, the reason for my being less sanguine about such ideas. Plus the possibility that Putin has an added soupcon of “what happens to me isn’t important as long as you die” added for the “back against the wall” situations.

    That reminds me of another movie reference. In “The Usual Suspects” the antagonist, Keyser Soze (Kevin Spacey), murders his own family rather than allow them to be held hostage when gang members break into his home. He then kills all the gang members in his house but one, who is meant to deliver the message about what Soze did and the strength of his will. Then Soze proceeds to murder everyone in and associated with the gang, sparing no one.

    I remember a similar sentiment way back in the Iran Hostage crisis, but it probably wasn’t widespread (it was a long time ago, and I don’t want to look up the details). Essentially some suggested that we just write the hostages off, tell the Iranians that we already consider them to be dead, and then bomb the fuck out of Iran. We would kill a lot more Iranians, and the world would learn not to fuck with the US, and that hostage-taking wasn’t worth it – or so the argument went.

    Such ideas are best left to fiction IMO.

    1
  47. JohnSF says:

    @Lounsbury:
    Easy enough mistake to make: Nordstreams got all the publicity.
    If Russia gets willing to cut off pipes to Hungary, that will be a big move.
    Actually, I’d bet they will late Autumn/early Winter, when everything shows no sign of working.

    And I’d pay a sizable sum to be able to watch Orban’s face when he gets the news.
    Especially if it can be arranged for him to be eating goulash at the time.
    😉

  48. Andy says:

    @Lounsbury:

    As a dezinformatsia play it’s well positioned, as look at the number of people who are unaware the Russians can perfectly well supply gas to Europe via Ukrainian or Bielorussian existing pipelines and thus think that Russia committed some real self-harm here, rather than sacrificing mere pawn (in form of stranded, possibly stranded / dead assets)

    From what I’ve read, Nordstream 1 was by far the biggest pipeline and supplied around 60 billion cubic meters of gas to Europe per year out of a total of about 130bcm delivered by all Russian pipelines. So that’s roughly ~45% of the total. It seems to me, assuming those figures are basically correct, that is more than a mere pawn.

    And yes, Russians can still supply some gas to Europe via these other pipelines. Can the other pipelines increase throughput to make up this difference? If so, why build Nordstream 1 and 2 in the first place?

    That said, I think your theory (Russia did it for the reasons you cite) is certainly one possibility here, but it’s not the only possible one given what little real information we have.

  49. dazedandconfused says:

    @Lounsbury:

    As I implied in my previous post, commercial fishermen have bottom scanning gear that can spot this pipeline, and, at just 35 fathoms, any of the guys on Deadliest Catch could place 500 lb charges right on top of it. No need for drones and such.

  50. grumpy realist says:

    @Richard Gardner: I was in Japan when the main undersea fibre-optic cable between the U.S and Japan went out and we had to go to the backup, which was a satellite link.

    It was discovered later that a shark had come along and eaten one of the transponders. Supposedly the EM field emitted by the cable attracted sharks…

  51. JohnSF says:

    @Andy:
    Point is, Nordstream 1 had been out of operation since late August, after another shutdown in mid July.
    And was running at only 40% since Jun, and 60% since April (IIRC).

    Russia has kept on trying to make a drama out of Nordstream, and it’s shot itself in the foot doing so.
    The decisive move would have been a total hydrocarbons embargo in February.
    But Putin always fails to decide to accept costs until too late.

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  52. JohnSF says:

    Interesting indirectly related development reported by Dave Keating.

    EU says third country nationals Turkey, India, China, Brazil for instance) will from now on be subject to EU sanctions themselves if they help Russia avoid sanctions.

    Josep Borrell adds that “people spreading false information about the war, or donating funds to the Russian-occupied areas, will be added to #sanctions list.”

    President von der Leyen:

    “We do not accept the sham referenda, or any type of annexation in Ukraine.”

    Implication of those words (and vdL tends to choose her words with care): includes LNR/DNR areas, and Crimea.

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  53. Andy says:

    @JohnSF:

    Point is, Nordstream 1 had been out of operation since late August, after another shutdown in mid July.
    And was running at only 40% since Jun, and 60% since April (IIRC).

    That is true, but that doesn’t explain why blowing it up makes sense.

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  54. JohnSF says:

    @Andy:
    Makes sense in Russian.
    *shrugs*

    Pehaps in FSB: “Putin is screaming at me! We must do something. This is something. Therefore we must do this”.
    Maybe attempt to spook the gas markets?
    Maybe (stupid) implied threat to the North Sea?

    Frankly, I’ve more or less given up expecting anything coming out of Moscow to align, other than accidentally, with objective reality.
    The Triumph of the Will as cosplayed by a bar-full of drunks.

  55. Lounsbury says:

    @Andy:
    First: Stranded Assets. Nordstream 2 is non authorised and a reauthorisation process even greased if that were ever to come back is not a Turn On the Pipe matter. Rather the liklihood is that it is a Dead Asset. And thus a pawn that can be sacrificed, there is no sacrifice of current income and the infra repair costs are certainly going to be simply trivial in the context of Putin’s war costs already, should there be a reason ever to bring back.

    Second multi pipe capacity:
    * multi-pipe via Ukraine 40 bcmpa+ (currently flowing well below operational capacities) [depending on Ukrainian off-take in-kind fees]
    * Yamal (via Bielorussie) 33 bcmpa, also restricted flow
    * Blue Stream 16 bcmpa
    * Turkstream, 31.5 bcmpa

    Nord 1 is 55 bcmpa and has not flowed at all since August, with heavy restriction since mid-year.

    At same time investment flow is to open up alternative assets including via FSRU (floating rapid instal terminals) for LNG, plus accleration of Terminals, acceleration and maxing of S Med lines (Algero-Italo), etc. There is massive and by any rational read long-term demand destruction relative to N/W European market demand for Nordstream pipes product. The Russians know this. All of us in energy know this.

    Why did they build the Nords?- to achieve Market Power mate, Market Power. To lock in W. Europe into a single gas sourcing and slow substitution away from gas. Nord2 was and is a power play as much as an energy play which is exactly why authorisation was not straight up. People have long worried about this.

    Barring Regime Changes in W Europe no one is going back to being dependent on Russian gas now that it’s been more than demonstrated that it is an energy security risk that is not in any way theoretical.

    Macron’s announced nuclear rebuild program yesterday reflects as does the idiot German Greens finally giving in to not shutting at least two nuclear plants.

    @dazedandconfused: Yes I saw. However a simple commercial remote reduces human risk. Either way specialised military gear is evidently not a requirement which improves plausible deniability.

  56. Lounsbury says:

    @Andy: It makes sense mate as a threat and as a driver to pressure on the gas market as part of the winter pressure play. It’s offline, hard offline for winter, and now insurers on gas infra in area are going to price premiums ex sovereign action. The game is not spot gas now, it’s hard limits on availability over next 9 months and panic button point for a hard winter.

    This is why none of us in the energy market had a doubt when the news hit.

  57. JohnSF says:

    Incidentally, re. European gas sourcing. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-09-27/italy-secures-enough-supplies-for-winter-without-gas-from-russia:

    Italy Secures Enough Supplies for Winter Without Russia Gas.
    Russian gas now accounts for just 10% of Italian supplies
    That amount could soon be replaced with LNG from North Africa

    And EU gas storage is now at 88% and still rising.
    IIRC 100% is calculated to cover average wintertime usage levels for a period of three months.
    And new LNG import terminals are coming on line.

    While in the US the export mega-terminals at Calcasieu Pass is now operational, and Golden Pass should be operational next year, possibly two more by later 2023. Plus new facilities in UAE.
    Russia has lost the bulk European gas market for good; even its remaining markets via land pipelines are going to shrivel away.
    No-one with half a brain (waves at Viktor Orban) trusts Russia as a supplier any longer.

    Note: even the Brothers of Italy have declared unequivocal support for Ukraine.

  58. Richard Gardner says:

    @grumpy realist: Sharks chomping on electric cables is an old story going back to the early Trans-Atlantic telegraph cables in the 1800s. They failed and when pulled up they found shark teeth embedded in the pitch coating. That is why undersea power cables are mostly High Voltage DC (HVDC) to eliminate the electric fields that attract sharks (also significantly less line loss, more significant in salt water (conductive) than in air).

    Another “victim” of the oil/gas sanctions power play is Kazakhstan, whose oil exports (about 1% of the world’s total) have used Russian oil pipelines to get to Europe and the Black Sea. They are able to send a little via an Azeri pipeline to keep their oil fields running.

  59. Gustopher says:

    Why do we assume that we (the west) are the target audience for this?

    I think it could just as easily been done for domestic Russian consumption — counter the protests with a message that Russia is being attacked by NATO to strengthen nationalism and rally people around the flag.

    The news market is porous, so some western news gets in, so they cannot just claim something happened that didn’t, plus they have their favorite pro-Russian western newscasts casting doubt on any “Russia did it!” stories (thank you, Tucker Carlson, of the frozen food fortunes).

    Also, it could make the other pipelines more valuable hostages/shields. The Russians were happy to hole up in Chernobyl knowing that there would be no airstrikes, so where do the other pipelines run?

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  60. Jen says:

    @Gustopher:

    I think it could just as easily been done for domestic Russian consumption

    Agreed. And IIRC, Putin’s done that before, hasn’t he? Russian men are streaming to the borders, it makes perfect sense to me that he might try something like this to stem the tide of that and try to get some sort of sense of patriotism going.

  61. JohnSF says:

    @Gustopher:

    …so where do the other pipelines run?

    Depends which pipelines you are thinking of.
    The other ones from Russia run overland, via Ukraine or Belarus, then on into the EU gas network.
    Most people expect the Russians to cut those this winter, at some point.

    The non-Russian ones at sea are the new Baltic line from Norway via Denmark to Poland.
    And the whole mass of pipelines in the North Sea.
    The Royal Navy can be expected to take a very dim view of anyone “messing around in boats” near them, from now on.

  62. JohnSF says:

    @Gustopher:
    There were no airstrikes on Chernobyl because there was no point (rear zone, off main lines of supply), and it was a tricky target given Russian air defences.
    Why bother?

    Why Russians occupied it in the first place: ???
    Russians doing Russian things; again.

  63. JohnSF says:

    @Gustopher:
    But will any Russians who were equivocal now say “Hah! Wicked westerners blow up our pipelines supplying our gas to themselves to stop themselves buying it! How fascist! Rally to glorious banners of Mother Russia!”
    If they can twist their minds into pretzels like that to justify support, they’d have supported it anyway.
    OTOH, maybe FSB official in danger of defenestration for failure can sell that concept to Putin?
    Summary: Russian state being Russian state, news at 11.

    Changes the overall picture not one bit: the gas pipes have always been judged to be potential Russian targets in wartime or near-war crisis.

  64. Michael Cain says:

    @Lounsbury:

    Macron’s announced nuclear rebuild program yesterday reflects as does the idiot German Greens finally giving in to not shutting at least two nuclear plants.

    Is this the plan where they start building the first new reactor in 2027, and hope to have it online by 2035? Or do they have something with an earlier schedule?

  65. JohnSF says:

    Is this the plan where they start building the first new reactor in 2027, and hope to have it online by 2035?

    No.
    That schedule is for France, which needs to replace it’s existing (massive) reactor fleet in stages.

    Germany is very different.
    After Fukushima, Merkel bowed to a massive political campaign, mounted by the Greens, supported by various slimeballs from other parties * waves at Gerhard Schröder * and business, and with a lot of Russian money/media activity behind it.
    Promised to shut down all nukes as fast as possible.
    And NONE to be built.

    Promise was energiewende: transition to wind/solar.
    Reality was massive ramp up of using gas for electricity, and even damned lignite, arguably the most polluting hydrocarbon of all.

    A stream of Green atomkrafte? nein danke! goes back to one origin of the overall green movement in Germany in the late Cold War and the generalised German alt-left anti-nuclear (power and weapons) movement then.
    Not a little Soviet effort went into that as well.

    It’s been an idee fixe of der Grunen ever since.
    Fukushima provided an ideal campaigning basis for a popular cause that Merkel was unwilling to fight.

  66. dazedandconfused says:

    @JohnSF:

    Unlikely they were talking about bombing their own pipelines when they said that.

  67. Andy says:

    @Lounsbury:

    *multi-pipe via Ukraine 40 bcmpa+ (currently flowing well below operational capacities) [depending on Ukrainian off-take in-kind fees]
    * Yamal (via Bielorussie) 33 bcmpa, also restricted flow
    * Blue Stream 16 bcmpa
    * Turkstream, 31.5 bcmpa

    So about 120 total. Europe used ~170 last year and, correct me if I’m wrong, that remaining 50 came from Nord Stream 1.

    It makes sense mate as a threat and as a driver to pressure on the gas market as part of the winter pressure play. It’s offline, hard offline for winter, and now insurers on gas infra in area are going to price premiums ex sovereign action. The game is not spot gas now, it’s hard limits on availability over next 9 months and panic button point for a hard winter.

    What isn’t clear is what this does to aid Russia strategically except maybe keep gas prices high to make money. But the gas was already shut off in the pipeline, and as you noted, few expected the Russians to turn it back on. What does Russia actually gain here? And if they wanted to send a message, why not be obvious about blowing up a pipeline? It’s not like the Russians have any problems with things like bombing hospitals.

    @JohnSF:

    Why Russians occupied it in the first place: ???
    Russians doing Russian things; again.

    No. They occupied it because it’s on the main LOC to Kiev on the west side of Dnipr, which was one of the primary axes for the initial invasion.

  68. Michael Cain says:

    @JohnSF:
    @Lounsberry said, “Macron’s announced nuclear rebuild program yesterday…” I was asking if this was the previously announced French program of six or possibly more reactors, the first coming online in 2035, intended to replace existing reactors as they retired, or if there was a new French program.

  69. Michael Reynolds says:

    Oh, no! Retaliation invites nuclear war!

    People, Putin is the one risking war. I’ve tried to explain this many times, but proportional response is self-defeating. Proportional response just means you’ve set a price. Vlad, we’ll let you fire off a nuke if you’re willing to pay the price of a strongly-worded denunciation. At that point you’ve surrendered initiative entirely and allowed the enemy to set the terms of the deal.

    The price must be too high. It must be disproportionate. Any response short of surrender risks triggering retaliation because we are dealing with a desperate man, so, he may interpret anything as ‘too much’ for reasons of his own. The point of raising the stakes is to go over Putin’s head, push it to the point where the military or the FSB pushes back, or he fears such pushback.

    Jesus, publishers are tougher negotiators than some of you people. You don’t go into a showdown scared, you go in hoping to scare the other guys. Risk? Yeah, duh, if there’s no risk then no message has been sent. The risk is an essential component.

  70. Andy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    The point of raising the stakes is to go over Putin’s head, push it to the point where the military or the FSB pushes back, or he fears such pushback.

    Why would you think the military or FSB will push him back? What evidence do you have that would actually happen? Especially considering that elements of the FSB and military are more hard-line toward the west than Putin. Many of these people already believe Russia is already at war with NATO given what we are already doing. What makes you think such people will pressure Putin to do what you want?

    The irony is that many people in Russia take your exact view but from the opposite direction. That the way to “win” and get the US and NATO to back down is to raise the stakes, to make the “price too high” which, with the magic of the underpants gnome strategy, will result in a Russian victory.

    Jesus, publishers are tougher negotiators than some of you people. You don’t go into a showdown scared, you go in hoping to scare the other guys. Risk? Yeah, duh, if there’s no risk then no message has been sent. The risk is an essential component.

    The stakes are not the same, Michael. Your “risk” in a publishing deal is nothing compared to a war with Russia. And what are you willing to do to get that publishing deal? How much are you willing to raise the stakes there? Maybe if you raise the stakes and kidnap the publisher’s family, they will realize just how serious you are and sign the deal. Logic!

    1
  71. JohnSF says:

    @Michael Cain:
    Yes, oops, missed the “Macron” bit.
    Sorry.

    The Macron announcement doesn’t change the French build plan in terms of plants.
    It’s intended to accelerate the schedule a bit by removing standing for legal challenges.
    And the desire to speed up is because past year multiple repair issues with older reactors indicate they may need to be replaced faster.

  72. JohnSF says:

    @Andy:

    No. They occupied (Chernobyl) because it’s on the main LOC to Kiev on the west side of Dnipr, which was one of the primary axes for the initial invasion.

    I’m aware of the supply route.
    Just still strikes me as odd.

    When they also held the next main route over to the west , which converges with the Chernobyl route to the south, there are no major lateral roads west that are open south, because of the Uzh marshes, and they were desperately short of troops to secure more vulnerable points.
    Why dig in in the forests there?

    I suspect just because “Secure Chernobyl” got put on a list, and somebody got to go secure it.
    They could have just put checks on the bridges and in the town, and been done with it, I’d have thought.
    But what do I know?

  73. Lounsbury says:

    @JohnSF: I think you have it right. Secure Chernobyl was on a checklist. And Russian execution being what it is….@JohnSF: @Michael Cain: Yes it’s a pull forward with acceleration on timeline (and contra Truss-esque type action, actual resources), it is also announced as a step to expansion rather than replacement. Macron is taking steps to have Facts on the Ground.

    @JohnSF: and the bloody Grünen were still questioning the “need” (and preferring to burn coal for fuck’s sake, so fucking climate green) 3 weeks ago, while it was fucking obvious since the gas games began that every goddamn non-gas generation asset one can possibly have operating needs to be operating and callable, there’s no fucking slack in the system and their bloody delaying was handing leverage to Putin.

    @Andy:

    And if they wanted to send a message, why not be obvious about blowing up a pipeline?

    1) Danish waters.
    2) Right near the nexus of the Norwegian new pipes.
    3) a stranded asset that is not going to come back even were the war to end tomorrow given demand destruction (replacement) ongoing for its product.
    Being direct leaves them without the “Oh it couldn’t be them” play and division they gain, or even your sort of bafflement. While people who are watching this from energy get the message quite well. It’s wonderful FSB play. Doubt, confusion, while direct intended audience gets the message.

    2
  74. wr says:

    @Michael Reynolds: “Jesus, publishers are tougher negotiators than some of you people. ”

    Um, Michael? Are you forgetting that no one here is actually negotiating with Putin? And I mean, incredibly enough, even you? People here are amusing themselves by posting opinions on various subjects, not undertaking life or death decisions that will impact the world.

    No opinion expressed here is going to have the slightest impact on anything. Even — and I hope you will not take this as a personal slight — yours.

    2
  75. Andy says:

    @JohnSF:

    I suspect just because “Secure Chernobyl” got put on a list, and somebody got to go secure it.
    They could have just put checks on the bridges and in the town, and been done with it, I’d have thought.

    There were only a handful of troops there providing basic security for the site since Ukrainian authorities had been displaced. Yes, it was on a checklist – for good reason.

    The press overhyped this as something much more significant than it was because – Chernobyl.

    1
  76. Dudley Sharp says:

    @gVOR08:

    It seems most likely that Putin is responsible, but the only one who said they would stop the pipeline was Biden:

    “Biden promised to prevent fuel from flowing directly from Russia to Germany through the newly constructed Baltic Sea pipeline just moments before Chancellor Olaf Scholz gave a unified but noticeably less enthusiastic nod to the idea.”
    Biden vows US will ‘end’ Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline if Ukraine invaded by Russia, By Steven Nelson, NY Post, February 7, 2022