Nord Stream Deadlock

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Nord Stream consists of two separate pipelines, Nord Stream I and Nord Stream II. While the Nord Stream I Pipeline originates from Viborg, Russia, the Nord Stream II Pipeline originates from Ust-Luga, also in Russia. Both pipelines run under the Baltic Sea in parallel to Lubmin, Germany. The pipelines are financed by Nord Stream AG, a consortium consisting of Russian, German, Dutch and French companies, with Russia holding 51% of the shares and other financiers, i.e. Germany, the Netherlands and France, holding the rest. Nord Stream is the only Russian project that bypasses Ukraine and delivers Russian gas directly to Western Europe.

Whereas the Nord Stream I Pipeline, which is part of the Nord Stream Project, inaugurated officially in 2011, the Nord Stream II Pipeline has been a controversial topic since its introduction. Therefore, numerous disputes over its construction have arisen. The second pipeline was strongly opposed, in particular by the United States of America (USA).

The USA’s opposition to the project has been centered around Ukraine. Since the implementation of the Nord Stream I project, Russia has tried to reduce the amount of natural gas exported to Europe through Ukraine. Until 2011, year the pipeline was inaugurated, 80% of the Russian natural gas exported to Europe passed through Ukraine, while by 2019 this share had fallen to 45%. Ukraine’s share is projected to fall even further, in case the second pipeline becomes operational.

Furthermore, this decrease in percentage is also thought to lead to a decline in Ukraine’s transit revenues from Russia. Then, Ukraine’s declining geopolitical importance in the eyes of Russia has also been mentioned by the USA as another significant factor.

On the other hand, the USA was also concerned with Europe’s growing energy dependence on Russia, leading to the imposition of sanctions on individuals involved in the construction of the second pipeline, under former US President Donald Trump and incumbent US President Joe Biden. Some of the sanctions were passed by the US Congress and some were decreed by Biden himself.

In 2021, as the construction of the second pipeline was completed, Germany canceled the inauguration of the line following the intervention of the Moscow administration in Ukraine on February 22, 2022, in an atmosphere disturbed by the US opposition to the project. The project was then completely abandoned.

With the commencement of the Russian-Ukrainian War, when European countries were in the process of committing to sanctions against Russia, natural gas exports to Europe through the Nord Stream I Pipeline were interrupted periodically. Russia claimed “maintenance and technical problems” as the reason for the cuts.

Europe, on the other hand, began to search for suppliers and supply routes that could provide an alternative to Russian natural gas. Such European initiatives led to tensions between Russia and the European Union (EU). Moscow blamed the EU for the long interruptions and started to argue that the maintenance costs of the pipelines should be borne by the EU, i.e. the destination of the gas supplies.[1]

During the same period, Russia announced the indefinite suspension of natural gas exports to Europe through the Nord Stream.[2] Resulting in a complete cessation of exports, these interruptions naturally led to a spike in energy prices in Europe and the EU ignored Russia’s calls, not wanting to bear more costs with an energy crisis looming on the horizon. Against such a backdrop, Russian President Vladimir Putin put Europe under further pressure by expressing his readiness to open the Nord Stream II Pipeline.[3]

Shortly afterwards, the news that a Danish F-16 detected a gas leak in the Nord Stream II Pipeline and a depressurization in the Nord Stream I Pipeline was reported by the press. Nord Stream AG, the consortium responsible for the operation of the pipelines, stated that the cause of the malfunctions had not yet been determined and that it was not possible at this time to specify how long it would take to fix them.[4]

At a time when Putin’s statements about his readiness to open the Nord Stream II Pipeline had raised suspicions in Europe, the occurrence of such a disruption led to various conspiracy theories being discussed. Denmark announced that it was unlikely that the leak was “accidental”, while Poland claimed that there was a “sabotage”. Subsequently, Swedish seismologists announced that two explosions had occurred in the pipelines before the gas leak.[5]

Further down the line, in the midst of the turmoil, Ukraine accused Russia of carrying out an attack on the Nord Stream, with EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stating that if the allegations were proven, the Union would respond to Russia in the harshest way possible. The USA, on the other hand, promised to protect the infrastructure of its ally, the EU, referring to the “possibility of sabotage”. In response, the Kremlin labeled the declarations “stupid” and “absurd”, dismissing the accusations.

Thereafter, the Kremlin suggested that the possibility of a sabotage be addressed by the United Nations (UN) Security Council.[6] Then, changing the course of the sabotage accusations, Russia stated that the USA would benefit the most from a possible sabotage.[7] Thus, mutual accusations started between the sides. While commenting on the Russian accusations, Biden emphasized that Russia cannot intimidate the West.[8]

The process of investigating the source of the incident was as challenging as the process of theorizing. Russia emphasized that the nature of any Western investigation would be crippled if it did not take part in it, and announced that it would launch its own independent investigations to identify the source of the leaks.

In the same manner, Western countries, such as Germany, adopted Russia’s method and started to conduct independent research of their own. As mutual investigations continued, both sides confirmed that they had detected “traces of explosives” in the pipelines. As a result, Moscow pointed to the USA as being responsible for the “sabotage” calling for an international investigation, and reiterated its call for the UN Security Council to take action.[9] Washington, on the other hand, went on the defensive, stating that Russia continued to spread fake news.

While the current dispute continued with mutual accusations between Russia and the USA, the German press, after investigations, claimed that the attack was carried out from a yacht rented from a Poland-based company owned by two Ukrainians. The claim was corroborated by intelligence information obtained by the US authorities.[10] Kiev, for its part, denied any involvement in the Nord Stream sabotage.[11]

Ultimately, the cause of the sabotage at the Nord Stream has not yet been conclusively identified by international organizations. However, research by both Russian and Western countries indicates that there are signs of an explosion. With that being said, each day, more and more actors are alleged to be involved in the incident, and a new front in the Russia-Ukraine War, which can be described as the “Nord Stream Front”, is opening up as international organizations continue their investigations.

[1] “Rusia culpa a la UE de la paralización de los envíos de gas por el gasoducto Nord Stream 1”, Europa News,, (Date of Accession: 04.07.2022).

[2] “Rusia corta el gas a Europa de forma indefinida: el peor escenario para el invierno se hace realidad”, Xataka,, (Date of Accession: 05.07.2022).

[3] “Putin asegura que Rusia “está lista” para abrir el Nord Stream 2”, Grupo Multimedio,, (Date of Accession: 08.07.2022).

[4] “La operadora del Nord Stream dice que los recientes daños en los gasoductos “no tienen precedentes””, Europa Press,, (Date of Accession: 27.07.2022).

[5] “Suecia detectó dos explosiones submarinas antes de que se produjeran las fugas de Nord Stream 1 y 2””, Euro News,, (Date of Accession: 27.07.2022).

[6] “Rusia Pedirá Reunión Del Consejo De Seguridad De La ONU Por Fugas En Nord Stream”, Barrons,, (Date of Accession: 28.07.2022).

[7] “Rusia insinúa que Estados Unidos se beneficia del sabotaje al Nord Stream”, Euro News,, (Date of Accession: 29.07.2022).

[8] “Biden dice que Putin no intimidará a los aliados y asegura que Moscú difunde mentiras sobre el Nord Stream”, Cope,, (Date of Accession: 01.08.2022).

[9] “Rusia pide una investigación internacional para determinar si EEUU colocó explosivos en Nord Stream”, Noti America,, (Date of Accession: 09.02.2023).

[10] “Informes de EEUU apuntan a que un grupo proucraniano saboteó el Nord Stream, según el ‘NYT’”, Voz Populi,, (Date of Accession: 08.03.2023).

[11] “Ucrania rechaza estar involucrada en el sabotaje del Nord Stream”, Europa Press,, (Date of Accession: 07.03.2023).