Pipeline leaks may be followed by more unruly acts
Published: Sep 28, 2022 08:34 PM
Photo taken on Sept. 14, 2022 shows the facilities of the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline in Lubmin, Germany.Photo:Xinhua

Photo taken on Sept. 14, 2022 shows the facilities of the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline in Lubmin, Germany.Photo:Xinhua

Three gas leaks from the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea were confirmed on Tuesday, with two powerful underwater explosions detected. 

Some analysts believe that the pipelines were attacked by depth charges or it was done by special forces. But while neither government of the US, Russia, or Germany has officially accused any party of "deliberate sabotage," the Western and Ukrainian media have quickly proclaimed that Russia attacked the Nord Stream pipelines. The Russian media have been unable to fight against such voices.

Nord Stream 1 and 2 are two parallel gas pipelines from Russia to Germany stretching more than 1,000 kilometers through the waters off Denmark and Sweden. Nord Stream 1 is currently shut down due to equipment issues, while Nord Stream 2 has yet to deliver gas. Before the Russia-Ukraine military conflict, US President Joe Biden threatened to immediately stop the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline if Russia took action against Ukraine, saying the US would be able to do it.

The deliberate mass destruction of the undersea gas pipelines is an attack conducted out of unprecedented insanity. It reminds us that there are many oil and gas pipelines going under the sea around the world and even more submarine communications cables. Sabotaging the Nord Stream pipelines is like opening Pandora's box and revealing new horrors within.

What is particularly important is that the destruction of the Nord Stream pipelines occurred at an extremely sensitive time. The same day as the Nord Stream incident was also the final day of referenda on "joining Russia" in four Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine. 

Russian sources from those regions claimed that most voters favored "becoming a part of Russia." Some media predicted that Russian President Vladimir Putin will address the Duma on Friday and that the Russian parliament may consider incorporating the four regions into Russia on October 4. Also, on Tuesday, Putin's close ally Dmitry Medvedev again warned of the possible use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

The destruction of the North Stream line delivers the message of "opening up a new front" for the war, bringing a strong premonition that the war is expanding and escalating. 

The destructiveness of the war, which was fought only in Ukraine before, now suddenly extends to the Baltic Sea, and the scene has changed, which makes people gasp at the heightened uncertainty of the future.

So, who acted so cruelly to do this? Western public opinion accuses Russia of being self-directed and self-inflicted. But what is Russia's purpose? 

Russia uses energy as a weapon against Europe. The purpose is to get Europe to lift sanctions against Russia, and Russia hopes to woo Europe by pressing it. If it destroyed the two Nord Stream pipelines at the same time, which is equivalent to losing the bond that holds Germany and other European countries, it would be a stupid and self-defeating strategy. 

If the Nord Stream pipeline is destroyed, Ukraine will reap obvious benefits among European countries, because the land pipeline to Europe passes through Ukraine, and doing so will completely eliminate Russia's expectations for the Nord Stream pipeline, which will help strengthen Germany's support for Ukraine. But Ukraine has no access to the Baltic Sea, how can it do so? 

The US stands to be the greatest strategic benefactor of the destruction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, given that the US has always opposed the line, hoping to make Germany more dedicated in confronting Russia by cutting the energy umbilical cord that Germany relies on Russia for. However, the US would be taking a big risk by doing so, since its relations with Europe, which have been brought much closer by the conflict in Ukraine, could collapse if Germany and other European countries caught it in the act. 

Therefore, who sabotaged the Nord Stream pipelines may become a new historical mystery for a long time, as no one would admit it even if it were accused of doing so with evidence. 

But there is a real risk of a new explosive development in the situation, and the possibility of a chain of reaction, followed by "more unruly" parties in the conflict. It brings to mind that this conflict may well be spiraling out of control, and that any kind of hardball tactics could be used next. 

I'm afraid the world needs to prepare for the worst and keep the bottom line thinking that "nothing is completely impossible" in the conflict. Russia is now the equivalent of a screw, and Europe and Ukraine a nut. Both the screw and the nut are in the hands of the US.

The author is a commentator with the Global Times. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn