Authorities in Denmark revealed on Tuesday that “powerful explosions” caused damage last month to the Nord Stream pipeline system.
The pipelines, which carried natural gas under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany, have been the center of geopolitical strife since the invasion of Ukraine. Russia nixed shipments through Nord Stream 1 several weeks ago, while Germany blocked the adjacent Nord Stream 2 from beginning shipments days before the war started. Sweden and Denmark reported damage to the pipelines on September 26 as the system operator confirmed that the destruction was “unprecedented.”
The Danish Police Intelligence Service released a statement announcing that preliminary investigations of the “crime scenes” confirm “extensive damage” to the pipelines caused by “powerful explosions.”
Denmark suggested that cooperation with the United Nations’ International Court of Justice, headquartered in The Hague, Netherlands, could be on the table as other countries carry out their own investigations. Swedish authorities said that evidence “has strengthened the suspicions of gross sabotage,” while the “continued preliminary investigation must show whether someone can be served with suspicion and later prosecuted.”
Footage shot by a Norwegian robotics company and published this week by the Swedish newspaper Expressen showed a massive tear in Nord Stream 1, with parts of the pipeline lodged in the seabed and over 50 meters of the system missing.
Meanwhile, the European Commission announced details of a proposal meant to increase security for infrastructure in the European Union. Ministers are encouraged to conduct stress tests on entities operating critical infrastructure while authorities in Brussels assume a “stronger support and coordination role” among member states and allies.
While some European ministers said Russia may have destroyed its own pipelines to increase gas prices, others blamed the United States for the damage, which caused natural gas to spew toward the surface of the Baltic Sea. Disabling the pipelines would remove the possibility of Germany caving to Russia and ending sanctions in time to import energy for the winter.
Footage of President Joe Biden threatening to oppose the Nord Stream 2 pipeline days before the beginning of the war resurfaced on social media after the pipelines suffered damage. The commander-in-chief had initially waived sanctions against the Russian-owned company behind Nord Stream 2, although he reimposed sanctions shortly before the conflict began.
“If Russia invades, that means tanks or troops crossing the border of Ukraine again, there will no longer be a Nord Stream 2. We will bring an end to it,” Biden said earlier this year. After a reporter pressed him, Biden responded: “I promise you, we will be able to do it.”
The destruction of the Nord Stream pipeline system threatens to worsen the energy supply crisis facing much of Europe. Natural gas shipments from Russia, which had already paused exports through Nord Stream 1 before the pipeline suffered damage, accounted for 40% of the European natural gas supply last year, a rate that had dropped to 9% as of last month. Germany, the continent’s largest economy, has seen dependence on Russian natural gas decrease from 55% to 35%.
The European Union is currently weighing various measures, such as consumption limits, to help member states triage their power supplies through the winter. Several nations, including France and Spain, have already called for residents to reduce power consumption.