The U.S. Navy recently tested technology and completed training exercises near the portion of the Nord Stream pipeline system that saw damage on Monday.
The pipelines, which carry natural gas under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany, have been the center of geopolitical strife since the invasion of Ukraine. Russia severed shipments through Nord Stream 1 a month ago, while Germany blocked the adjacent Nord Stream 2 from beginning shipments immediately before the invasion. Sweden and Denmark reported two leaks in Nord Stream 1 and one leak in Nord Stream 2 on Monday, while the system’s operator confirmed that the destruction was “unprecedented.”
In June, the U.S. Navy joined other NATO members for BALTOPS 22, a series of maritime exercises in the Baltic Sea near the Danish island of Bornholm — the location of the Nord Stream pipeline leaks. Among other initiatives, scientists from five nations tested unmanned underwater mine hunting technology.
“BALTOPS, with the high degree of complexity, tested our collective readiness and adaptability, while also highlighting the strength of our Alliance and resolve in providing a maritime domain with freedom of navigation for all,” Vice Admiral Gene Black said in a statement.
While some European officials suspect Russia may have destroyed its own pipelines to increase gas prices, others have blamed the United States for the damage, which is causing natural gas to spew toward the surface. Disabling the pipelines would remove the possibility of Germany nixing sanctions against Russia in time to import energy for the winter.
Radoslaw Sikorski, a Polish member of European Parliament, commented on social media that the United States was responsible for the destruction — a claim that earned him rebukes from Polish Secretary of State Stanislaw Zaryn. “There’s no shortage of pipeline capacity for taking gas from Russia to Western Europe, including Germany,” Sikorski had claimed, adding that the “only logic” behind the pipeline system “was for Putin to be able to blackmail or wage war on Eastern Europe with impunity.”
Meanwhile, footage of President Joe Biden threatening to oppose the Nord Stream 2 pipeline days before the beginning of the war resurfaced on social media. 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,” Biden said. “We will bring an end to it.”
After a reporter pressed him, Biden responded: “I promise you — we will be able to do it.”
When asked about the possibility of Russian sabotage, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters “no option can be ruled out” at the moment. “This is a very concerning news. Indeed, we are talking about some damage of an unclear nature to the pipeline in Denmark’s economic zone,” Peskov said. “This is an issue related to the energy security of the entire continent.”
A report from German news outlet Spiegel noted that the CIA had cautioned Germany about possible attacks on the pipelines weeks ago. Berlin is presently assuming the destruction emerged from intentional attacks.