Investigators from across Europe, including intelligence agencies, will now try to piece together exactly who and what caused the apparent explosions. This will likely involve several steps, such as examining what data is available about the area, including seismic and other sensor data, checking to see if communications around the incident have been intercepted, and examining pipelines for signs of intent. destruction.
None of the pipelines are operational: Nord Stream 1 was stopped for repairs in August and Nord Stream 2 did not officially open afterwards Germany withdrew its support before Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in late February, but both pipelines contain gas. The three leaks occurred relatively close to each other, near the Danish island of Bornholm in the Baltic Sea. The island is bordered by Denmark to the west, Sweden to the north, and Germany and Poland to the south. The leaks are in international waters, but are also found in the exclusive economic zones of Denmark and Sweden. “It’s quite shallow, about 50 meters on average in this region,” says Julian Pawlak, a research associate at Helmut Schmidt University and the German Institute for Defense and Strategic Studies.
security fonts they have speculated if the attacks were deliberate, they could have been carried out by unmanned underwater drones, involve launching or laying mines from boats, carried out by divers or even from inside pipelines. “We still don’t know what the origin of those explosions are or where they came from, whether they originated from the outside or whether they originated from inside the pipes,” says Pawlak. In a process called “pigging”, cleaning and inspection machines can be shipped by pipeline from Russia to Germany. Pigging may have been reused to carry out an attack.
In 2007, before the first Nord Stream pipeline was built, a review of the project by the Swedish Defense Research Agency (FOI) warned of possible explosions around the pipeline, in the context of terrorism. “Despite its concrete lining, a pipe is quite vulnerable, and one diver would be enough to plant an explosive device,” says his report said. “However, the impact of such an assault would likely be quite modest and a minor incident of this type would most likely not result in a major explosion.”
“They [Russia] they have the capacity for submarine warfare, with divers, but also with mini-submarines and drones,” says Hansen. However, confirming any liability is not necessarily straightforward. The relatively shallow depth of the area around the Nord Stream pipes means that it is unlikely that some large submarine they would have been operating nearby, as they would be easy to spot.
Pawlak says any vessels in the area could potentially spot others who may have caused the damage. Underwater sensors could also detect something moving in the area, but it’s not clear where these systems are. “It is not yet the case that the entire Baltic Sea is full of sensors and NATO knows every move,” says Pawlak. “On the surface, but especially at the bottom of the sea, it is not yet possible to know, at every moment, in every place, what is moving, what is happening.”