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What in the World?

Nord Stream pipeline damage exposes Europe’s vulnerability

Sep 27, 2022

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Leaks in two crucial natural gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea are being investigated for possible sabotage. After the damage was discovered in the Nord Stream pipelines that run from Russia to Germany, the Danish government said it views the incidents as “deliberate actions.” The pipelines and the gas they transport are a key aspect of the standoff between Russia and other European nations over the growing energy crisis. Straight Arrow News contributor Peter Zeihan says a number of nations may be behind the Nord Stream pipeline damage. But more concerning is the fact that it suggests that other key infrastructure could now be targets.

Excerpted from Peter’s Sept. 27 “Zeihan on Geopolitics” newsletter:

Something’s damaged the Nord Stream supply lines that transit through the Baltic Sea. Inconvenient in the best of times, sure, but in the current geopolitical climate there are tons of theories and fingers being pointed all around. Was it the Americans, wanting to prevent the Europeans from crawling back to an abusive natural gas supplier? The Russians themselves (despite already electing to voluntarily halt gas supplies?) Tough love from Baltic Euro states? Ukrainian Saboteurs? A freak accident? Frankly, none of the these theories hold up. This is one of those moments where as much as we’d like some immediate clarity, we’re simply going to have to wait and see…

Now, the pipelines were all off. Nord Stream Two has never been turned on. Nord Stream One, the Russians turned off two weeks ago in order to punish the Europeans. So it’s not like there’s any immediate danger here aside from simply a methane link into the atmosphere, which is, you know, in general, no, bueno.

I’m sorry that doesn’t give you any clarity. It’s a confusing situation. The most important thing from my point of view is that someone out there has now decided that core economic infrastructure is a viable target. And while it’s not hard if you know what you’re doing to get down the Nord Stream to poke a hole in it, there’s a lot of infrastructure elsewhere – land pipelines, for example – that are far more vulnerable. And if the gloves are really coming off in this conflict, the economic…the economic damage we’ve seen to Europe to this point is only just now beginning.

Everyone, Peter Zeihan here coming to you from Colorado. It is the 27th of September and in the last two or three days, there have been a number of instances in the Baltic Sea that have caused damage to the Nord Stream pipeline system. There are four trunk lines; two part of Nord Stream, one that has been operational for years and two part of Nord Stream Two who, were finished about a year ago but haven’t come online yet…that have now been damaged by unknown forces. The damage is in 70 meters of water, so about 220 feet. And the problem here is narrowing down the suspect pool is impossible. Because at that depth, if you have a couple of tanks and you know what you’re doing, pretty much any commercial scuba diving operator could have gotten down that deep and, you know, basically taken a pick axe to a pipeline or something a little bit more sophisticated.

So that narrows the…suspect pool, not at all. There are a number of theories out there, none of which I can put my finger on, because none of them really make great sense. One is that the U.S. would do this in order to make sure the Europeans would never use Russian natural gas again. Okay, but the Russians turned off the pipes themselves, which is a much better PR battle from the American point of view than putting a couple of holes in a pipe which could be repaired. Some say this was the Ukrainians. You know, that makes a degree of sense. However, the Ukrainians have natural gas pipes that are still operating that flow through the war zones and Ukrainian territory on to Europe, and it would be easier just to take out those. The Germans probably not. They’re the ones who are desperate for the gas.

I think it might be interesting to point the finger at a number of the Nordic states, whether it’s Sweden, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, or maybe even Poland, because they have a vested interest in seeing this line go offline because it would force the rest of the Europeans to finally suck it up and move on without Russia. That makes a little bit more sense. But again, this is relatively easily repairable unless the pipeline has like, had to stick a dynamite put inside of it as opposed to someone just poking a hole at it. 

So no good theories hold up to any sort of scrutiny…and we have no idea. Now, the pipelines were all off. Nord Stream Two has never been turned on. Nord Stream One, the Russians turned off two weeks ago in order to punish the Europeans. So it’s not like there’s any immediate danger here aside from simply a methane link into the atmosphere, which is, you know, in general, no, bueno.

I’m sorry that doesn’t give you any clarity. It’s a confusing situation. The most important thing from my point of view is that someone out there has now decided that core economic infrastructure is a viable target. And while it’s not hard if you know what you’re doing to get down the Nord Stream to poke a hole in it, there’s a lot of infrastructure elsewhere – land pipelines, for example – that are far more vulnerable. And if the gloves are really coming off in this conflict, the economic…the economic damage we’ve seen to Europe to this point is only just now beginning. Okay, that’s it for me. Until next time.

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