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NATO On Alert After Baltic Pipeline Incident

  • Damage to the Balticconnector pipeline, a crucial gas link between Estonia and Finland, is believed to be the result of human interference, not natural causes.
  • The incident draws parallels to the earlier sabotage of the Nord Stream gas pipelines, which remains an unresolved case.
  • Following the damage, the Norwegian seismological institute detected a probable explosion in the Baltic Sea, prompting NATO's promise of a strong response if confirmed as an attack.
NATO

President Alar Karis says Estonia is demanding answers for damage to a Baltic Sea gas pipeline running to Finland that the Baltic nation's defense minister said was the result of “quite heavy force” that could have been caused by “mechanical impact.”

Finland said it had raised its preparedness level on October 11 after damage was discovered to the Balticconnector pipeline over the weekend as an investigation into the incident continues amid suspicions it was caused by outside interference.

"We know that the cause is not nature, but probably human activity. Who, why and how? Negligence or intent? These questions have yet to be answered," Karis wrote in a post on Facebook.

The incident occurred a little over a year after the larger Nord Stream gas pipelines, a major conduit for Russian natural gas exports to Western Europe, were damaged by explosions. Denmark, Sweden, and Germany opened probes into the incident, which was deemed to be sabotage. The case remains unsolved.

Reuters quoted Estonian Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur as saying "it can clearly be seen" that the subsea gas pipeline and a telecommunications cable connecting Finland and Estonia was damaged by “external activity.”

“It can clearly be seen that these damages are caused by quite heavy force,” Pevkur told Reuters, adding that investigators were not ruling out anything at this stage.

“So what it is exactly, we have to specify yet, but at the moment it rather seems that it had been mechanical impact or mechanical destruction.”

The incident was first noticed on October 8 when Finnish and Estonian gas system operators noticed an unusual drop in pressure in the Balticconnector pipeline, after which they shut down the gas flow.

Finnish authorities said on October 10 that they had identified the location of the outage in the 77-kilometer pipeline, but the cause of the damage was not yet clear and the investigation was continuing.

Estonian Navy Commander Juri Saska said the pipeline, which was encrusted in concrete for protection, looks like “someone tore it on the side.”

“The concrete has broken, or peeled off, specifically at that point of injury,” Saska told Estonian public broadcaster ERR.

Afterward, the Norwegian seismological institute (NORSAR) said it detected “a probable explosion" on October 8 in the Baltic Sea between Finland and Estonia, both NATO member states, where the gas pipeline leak was later detected.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that if the damage was proven to be due to an attack, it would be met by a “united and determined” response.

“If it is proven to be an attack on NATO critical infrastructure...it will be met by a united and determined response from NATO,” he said on October 11 before a meeting of alliance defense ministers in Brussels.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described news of damage to the Balticconnector as “disturbing” and said Russia was awaiting further information on the incident.

The Balticconnector pipeline runs across the Gulf of Finland from the Finnish town of Inkoo to the Estonian port of Paldiski. It is bi-directional, transferring natural gas between Finland and Estonia depending on demand and supply.

Commissioned in 2019, the Balticconnector has been the only gas import channel to Finland apart from liquefied natural gas (LNG) since Russian imports were halted in May 2022 following Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

Russia stopped supplying gas after Finland refused to pay in rubles, a condition imposed on “unfriendly countries” -- including European Union member states -- as a way to sidestep Western financial sanctions against Russia's central bank.

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Most of the gas that was flowing in the Balticconnector pipeline before it was closed on October 8 was going from Finland to Estonia from which it was forwarded to Latvia, Estonia’s gas system operator Elering said.

Estonian consumers have been receiving gas from Latvia since the shutdown of the pipeline, Elering said.

Finnish gas operator Gasgrid said the Finnish gas system is stable and the supply of gas has been secured through a floating LNG terminal at Inkoo.

By RFE/RL

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Leave a comment
  • Mamdouh Salameh on October 11 2023 said:
    Has it occurred to anybody that US-led NATO could be looking for an excuse to get directly involved in the Ukraine conflict since the supposedly Ukraine counter offensive has fizzled out? If so then they can blame Russia as being behind the Baltic pipeline incident.

    Is it not also possible that NATO countries could be muddying the water to mask the identity of the culprit behind the sabotage of the Russian Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 gas pipelines having appointed themselves judge and jury in the matter and excluded Russian participation in the investigations?

    NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg didn’t waste time in warning of potential response to what he called sabotage of Finland pipeline.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Global Energy Expert

Leave a comment




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