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Nord stream: where is the investigation of gas pipeline leaks?

As if to give an official air to its offensiveness, Russia has requested that the UN Security Council meet this Friday, September 30, in order to raise the subject of the alleged sabotage of the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines.

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Nord stream: where is the investigation of gas pipeline leaks?

As if to give an official air to its offensiveness, Russia has requested that the UN Security Council meet this Friday, September 30, in order to raise the subject of the alleged sabotage of the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines. situation was not as serious, it could make people smile, as Russia appears, in the eyes of Westerners, as the designated culprit. But the investigation has only just begun, and uncovering the person responsible for the four leaks reported by the Swedish and Danish authorities promises to be complex.

Since September 26, four leaks from the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines have been reported by Swedish and Danish authorities. And as the Washington Post reminds us, quoting Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond: "Once is chance. Twice is coincidence. The third time is enemy action". It is therefore up to the investigators to find the culprit. The two countries concerned in the first place, Sweden and Denmark, have instructed their security services to conduct an investigation for "aggravated sabotage".

This is also the case of Russia, which has opened an investigation for "act of international terrorism". As for the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, she said that it was "primary to investigate the incidents and to shed full light on the events". Everyone therefore seems to agree to study satellite images and underwater infrastructures in order to find the culprit. But in this giant diplomatic Cluedo, there is a liar.

Dario Ungiusto / L'Express

It is obvious, given the current geopolitical context, that the investigations carried out by non-Russian actors start with an a priori, or rather what legal language would call an "intimate conviction". Before any investigation report, Ukraine already denounced "a planned Russian terrorist attack", when Poland, through the voice of its Prime Minister, evoked "an act of sabotage which probably marks the next stage of the escalation of the situation in Ukraine".

But do the facts identified so far point to Russian responsibility? Independent naval analyst HI Sutton recalls on Twitter that "the Russian Navy has the largest fleet of sub-spies in the world". In other words, it could easily damage a Baltic Sea pipeline. Especially since it has nuclear-powered mini-submarines capable of operating at depths of 1,000 meters, equipped with mechanical arms capable of manipulating or cutting cables.

In addition, the American television channel CNN understands from European officials that "Russian Navy support ships were observed Monday and Tuesday near the places where the leaks will occur a few hours later". However, several experts believe that Russia has no interest in this sabotage. For Hu Sutton, "the Russians do not need to blow up their gas pipeline to implement measures against Europe". Cutting off supplies to so-called enemy states – which they have been doing for several months – seems more judicious, as sabotage would necessarily penalize them financially. Nevertheless, the Kremlin could have decided to sacrifice the gas pipelines to encourage European countries to stop their interventionism in the war in Ukraine.

When Russia denounced the action of a "terrorist state", it could just as well have cited the country targeted, the United States, Moscow having immediately asked President Joe Biden to give his version of the facts. The Russians are playing on the delicate position in which Washington finds itself. Indeed, the United States have always been fierce opponents of the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines, since they energetically link Europe to Russia. Last February, Joe Biden even indicated that he would do what was necessary "to put an end to Nord Stream 2" if the Russians invaded Ukraine.

In fact, the United States has every interest in seeing that the Baltic Sea pipelines do not work. They could thus sell their liquefied natural gas to European countries. However, the Nord Stream 2 project died on its own after Russia invaded Ukraine, and the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline has been shut down since August. In an interview granted this Wednesday to L'Express, energy specialist Denis Florin believes that "the Americans have already won" and does not see "why they would have destroyed them".

The States that can emerge winners from the destruction of the Nord Stream gas pipelines are the producers of liquefied natural gas. Apart from the United States, we must mention Qatar and Australia. If they can take advantage of the situation, there is no indication that actors outside the war in Ukraine are responsible. As for the action of a non-state actor, the hypothesis should not be ruled out according to Denis Florin. "The sabotage of a pipeline is not within the reach of the first terrorist, but some private companies have mastered the use of a submarine perfectly." Faced with all these hypotheses, the precise inspection of the places where the gas pipelines have been sabotaged, envisaged within one to two weeks, is essential to better identify the profile of the culprit.

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