Russia is preparing to make expensive repairs to a pair of natural gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea that many Western experts suspected Moscow had ordered sabotaged to begin with.
Moscow’s latest moves complicate already uncertain theories about who could be responsible for bombing the Nord Stream pipelines in September and why. Swedish investigators looking into the incident have concluded that a state actor is most likely responsible, though they cannot say for sure who, according to The New York Times.
On September 26, three explosions sprung four leaks in Nord Stream 1 and 2. The bombings took place at two locations inside the exclusive economic zones of Sweden and Denmark in the Baltic Sea.
After the explosions, many Western leaders and experts blamed the leaks on Russian aggression. U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said on September 30 that Russia “seems” to be the culprit. Experts hypothesized that Moscow was sending a threatening message against the West’s underwater infrastructure, as well as cutting off a main artery for Europe’s access to Russian gas fields ahead of winter.
Russia has repeatedly denied the accusations. Investigators have failed to come up with evidence to support the charge against Russia. Some European officials have backed off earlier condemnations of Russia and expressed regret that so many fingers were pointed at Moscow before proper evidence was gathered to support the charge.
“The governments that waited to comment before drawing conclusions played this right,” one European official told The Washington Post.
The most likely suspect is either a state or state-backed terror group, according to the Post.
“We know that this amount of explosives has to be a state-level actor,” Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told the Post. “It’s not just a single fisherman who decides to put the bomb there. It’s very professional.”
The Nord Stream pipelines do not service Finland. Still, the event is a warning. “The lesson learned is that it shows how vulnerable our energy network, our undersea cables, internet … are for all kinds of terrorists,” Haavisto said.
Daniel Stenling, Sweden’s top counterintelligence official, declined to posit a culprit to the Times. He said that the attack was “very interesting” following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“In the big context of the war in Ukraine that is ongoing, it’s very interesting and very serious,” he told the Times while emphasizing the growing threats from Russia on cybersecurity and espionage.