Who’s Responsible for the Nord Stream Pipeline Attacks?
The Nord Stream pipelines have become a flashpoint of geopolitical tensions between Russia, Europe, and the United States, with critics and supporters debating the economic, environmental, and security implications of the project for years. The twin pipeline system, which runs from Russia to Germany across the Baltic Sea, has a total capacity of 55 billion cubic meters per year and supplies up to 20% of Europe’s gas needs. However, it has also been targeted by sabotage and cyberattacks, raising concerns about its resilience and reliability.
The latest development in the Nord Stream saga is the accusation that Ukrainian individuals are behind the attacks on the pipelines. According to reports from several German and Swiss media outlets, two Ukrainian nationals are being investigated in connection with a yacht that was allegedly used to plant explosives near the Nord Stream 1 pipeline last September. The authorities reportedly recovered a GPS device that contained coordinates pointing to the location of the explosion, as well as a Ukrainian flag that was found on the yacht.
The allegations have sparked a fresh wave of speculation about who benefits from the Nord Stream attacks, and why Ukraine would want to disrupt the gas flow between Russia and Germany. Some experts argue that Ukraine, which has been in a state of conflict with Russia since 2014, could be seeking to pressure Germany and other EU countries into supporting its position on Crimea and Donbass, which are still occupied by Russian forces. By creating an energy crisis in the heart of Europe, Ukraine could force the West to take a tougher stance against Russia and make it harder for Moscow to use gas as a political weapon.
However, other analysts point out that the evidence against Ukraine is circumstantial at best and that other actors could be involved in the attacks. For example, some suspect that Russian intelligence services might be using Ukrainian proxies to carry out an asymmetrical warfare campaign against Nord Stream, as part of a broader hybrid war against the West. By blaming Ukraine for the attacks, the Kremlin could also be seeking to portray itself as a victim of Ukrainian aggression and justify further military intervention in the region.
Moreover, the nature and sophistication of the attacks on Nord Stream suggest that whoever is behind them has significant technical and operational capabilities. The use of military-grade explosives, for instance, implies that the perpetrators had access to specialized knowledge and equipment that are not readily available on the black market. The fact that the attacks have not caused major disruptions to gas supplies also suggests that the attackers are not interested in causing immediate harm but rather in sending a message or testing the vulnerabilities of the pipelines.
Regardless of who is responsible for the Nord Stream attacks, the incidents highlight the risks and challenges of energy security in the 21st century. As the world becomes more interconnected and interdependent, the vulnerabilities of critical infrastructure like pipelines, power grids, and communication networks also increase. Moreover, the proliferation of cybercrime, terrorism, and hybrid warfare tactics makes it harder for states to protect their assets and citizens from harm.
To address these challenges, governments, businesses, and civil society actors need to adopt a multidisciplinary and multistakeholder approach that combines technological innovation, regulatory frameworks, public awareness, and international cooperation. This approach should prioritize the protection of essential services and critical infrastructure, while also respecting human rights, privacy, and free expression. By investing in resilience and sustainability, we can reduce the risks of future attacks on pipelines like Nord Stream and ensure that energy remains a driver of progress rather than a source of instability.