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Who Blew Up the Nord Stream Pipelines? | GZERO World

Who blew up the Nord Stream pipelines?

The controversial Nordstream pipeline that connects Russia to Germany made headlines last September when segments of it mysteriously exploded, deep under water.

Who was responsible?

"My guess is the Russians," says German diplomat Christoph Heusgen tells Ian Bremmer on GZERO World.

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The logo of the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline project is seen at a rolling plant in Chelyabinsk, Russia.

REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

What We're Watching: Russian gas pipeline problems, China's economic slump, the other mobilization

Did someone blow up the Nord Stream pipelines?

The operator of the two Nord Stream gas pipelines, which run from Russia to Western Europe under the Baltic Sea, reported “unprecedented” leaks and massive pressure drops on Tuesday, stoking fears of foul play. Nord Stream was not actually carrying gas to Europe at the time — the EU froze approvals for the new Nord Stream 2 line after Russia invaded Ukraine, and Russia halted existing flows through Nord Stream 1 in August, blaming Western sanctions. But the incident comes as Europe bundles up for winter with substantially reduced shipments of Russian gas. Seismologists recorded explosions in the area on Monday, and European officials have suggested sabotage, but so far there is no hard evidence. Russian officials, for their part, lamented the incident’s impact on “energy security,” while some pro-government outlets have suggested American sabotage. If it were deliberate, who’d benefit most from blowing up a non-operational pipeline? Apart from the geopolitical intrigue, there are environmental concerns too — the line is now leaking gargantuan amounts of methane, churning up the sea off the Danish island of Bornholm.

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Russia Waging a Gas War with Europe | World In :60 | GZERO Media

Russia cutting Nord Stream 1 gas to undermine European leaders

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week on World In :60:

Is Russia waging a gas war with Europe?

They certainly are. You have Nord Stream 1 back online after scheduled maintenance, and first was 40%, now 20% of normal volumes. Technical problem, that's what the Russians say. But of course, in reality it is because they know that the Europeans are moving to diversify away from Russian energy as fast as possible and the Russians are not letting them do it on their timeframe. Winter's coming and Russia's best opportunity to undermine European leaders and get a whole bunch of Europeans saying, "What are you doing? Why are you sanctioning the Russians, you're hurting us. We are the ones that are facing the economic pain as a consequence. We don't want you to." A bigger peace movement is if they make life impossible for the Europeans during winter this year. So, I mean, frankly, I'd be surprised if you have any Russian gas go into Germany, come winter this year. The Germans are aware of that possibility and they are very concerned about it. By the way, if the worse comes to worst you're talking about a 2a to 3% contraction of the EU economy. It's a big deal, but it's not a disaster. Next year will be easier for the Europeans.

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A natural gas pipe in front of EU and Russian flags.

REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

What We're Watching: Russia-EU pipeline repairs, AMLO in the (White) House, Sri Lanka's new leader

Will Russia turn the taps back on?

“Trust us,” Russia is saying, “we’re just doing routine maintenance.” Moscow has just shut off its Nord Stream 1 pipeline, a major source of natural gas for Germany, for 10 days of summer repairs. Annual checkups to these pipelines are normal, but this is no normal year. Berlin worries the Kremlin might leave the pipes closed as a way to retaliate against the EU for the bloc’s Ukraine-related sanctions. Nord Stream 1 carries about 55 billion cubic meters of gas annually to Germany, equaling about half of the country’s yearly consumption. If Moscow keeps the line shut, Europe would struggle to store up enough gas supplies ahead of next winter. Natural gas prices in Europe are already soaring, and although the EU is moving to wean itself off of Russian energy, any further shortfalls would further stoke already-high inflation, with unpredictable political consequences across the continent. Putin, of course, knows this. Keep an eye on that “closed for repairs” sign hanging on Nord Stream 1.

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Ari Winkleman

The Graphic Truth: European reliance on Russian gas

Russia’s increasingly aggressive stance against Ukraine has again highlighted Europe’s reliance on Russian gas imports. But recent events have also revealed how much Russia’s economy depends on its European consumers. While a lot of Russian natural gas used to traverse Ukrainian territory on its way to the EU, the Center for Strategic and International Studies says that level was slashed by 70% between 1998 and 2021 as Moscow sought to increase its leverage over Kyiv. We take a look at some major pipeline import routes from Russia to the EU from 2015-2021.

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