By Ken Bredemeier
NATO vowed retaliation Thursday for attacks on the critical infrastructure of its 30 member nations, while strongly suggesting the rupture of two Baltic Sea pipelines meant to send natural gas from Russia to Germany was the direct result of sabotage.
Ambassadors to NATO, the West’s key military alliance, said in a statement, “Any deliberate attack against allies’ critical infrastructure would be met with a united and determined response.” They said four ruptures in the pipelines were of “deep concern.”
NATO did not accuse anyone of damaging the pipelines but said that “all currently available information indicates that this is the result of deliberate, reckless, and irresponsible acts of sabotage. These leaks are causing risks to shipping and substantial environmental damage.”
In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday that the ruptures in the Nord Stream pipelines would not have been possible without a state actor’s involvement.
“It looks like a terror attack, probably conducted on a state level,” Peskov told reporters. Russian President Vladimir Putin later told Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that “international terrorism” was to blame.
“Judging by the amount of destruction of the Nord Stream, it’s hard to imagine that such action could have been taken without a state involvement,” Peskov said. “It’s a very dangerous situation that requires a quick investigation.”
Some European officials and energy experts have suggested that Russia likely carried out the attacks, to benefit from higher energy prices and to create more economic chaos in Europe for its support of Ukraine in fending off Russia’s seven-month invasion. But other officials urged caution in assessing blame until investigators determine what happened.
Peskov characterized media reports about Russian warships being spotted in the area of the damaged pipelines as “stupid and biased,” adding that “many more aircraft and vessels belonging to NATO countries have been spotted in the area.”
The Swedish Coast Guard confirmed a fourth leak on the Nord Stream pipelines off southern Sweden.
“We have leakage at two positions” off Sweden, coast guard spokesperson Mattias Lindholm said, with two more off Denmark.
Two of the leaks are on the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, where the flow of gas was recently halted, while the other two are on Nord Stream 2, which has never been opened. Although they weren’t running, both pipelines were filled with methane gas, which has escaped and is bubbling to the surface, probably until Sunday, according to energy experts.
The Danish and Swedish governments said they believed the leaks off their shores were the result of “deliberate actions.”
Before the leaks became obvious, explosions were recorded. Swedish seismologists recorded a first explosion early Monday southeast of the Danish island of Bornholm, with a second, stronger blast northeast of the island that night, one that was equivalent to a magnitude 2.3 earthquake. Danish, Norwegian and Finnish seismic stations also registered the explosions.