European security officials observed Russian naval aid ships on Monday and Tuesday. Leaks in Nord Stream pipelines According to two Western intelligence officials and another source familiar with the matter, it was likely caused by underwater explosions.
It’s unclear whether the planes had anything to do with the explosions, those sources and others said — but it’s one of many factors investigators are looking into.
Russian submarines were also not seen far from these areas last week, one of the intelligence officials said.
Three U.S. officials said the U.S. still did not have a full explanation of what happened, days after the explosions that caused three separate and simultaneous leaks in two pipelines on Monday.
Russian ships routinely operate in the area, according to a Danish military official, who emphasized that the presence of the ships did not indicate that Russia had caused damage.
“We see them every week,” the person said. “Russian activity in the Baltic Sea has increased in recent years. They are often testing our vigilance – both at sea and in the air.”
But the view raises still more doubts. Russiawhich has drawn the most attention from both European and US authorities as the only actor in the region with both the ability and motivation to deliberately damage pipelines.
U.S. officials declined to comment Wednesday on intelligence about the planes.
Both Denmark and Sweden are investigating, but the site has yet to be inspected and details of what exactly caused the explosions are still sketchy. A European official said the Danish government was under review and it could take up to two weeks before a proper investigation could begin because the pressure in the pipes makes it difficult to reach the site of the leak – though familiar with the matter. Another source said the investigation could begin as soon as Sunday.
The prime ministers of both Denmark and Sweden said publicly on Tuesday that the leaks were likely the result of deliberate actions, not accidents, and Sweden’s security service said in a statement on Wednesday that It cannot be ruled out that “a foreign power is behind it.” US National Security Adviser Jack Sullivan also said on Tuesday evening. Called the leaks “obvious sabotage”. In a tweet
But senior Western officials have so far avoided attributing responsibility for the attack to Russia or any other country.
The Kremlin has publicly denied attacking the pipelines. A spokesman described the allegation as “predictably silly and ridiculous”.
CNN has reached out to the Russian Defense Ministry for comment on the ships’ presence.
According to European sources familiar with the matter, the Danish government is leading the investigation and has imposed a five-nautical-mile exclusion zone and a 1-kilometer no-fly zone.
Aside from Sullivan, US officials have been more cautious than their European counterparts in drawing conclusions about the leaks.
“I think many of our partners have decided or believe that this is sabotage. I’m not at a point where I can tell you one way or the other,” a senior military official said Wednesday. “The only thing I know out there is that we think the water is between 80 and 100 meters. [deep] At the point where the pipeline is. Other than that I don’t know anything.
‘Unprecedented’ leaks in Russian gas pipelines spark fears of sabotage
But both a senior U.S. official and a U.S. military official said Russia remains the leading suspect — assuming the European assessment of deliberate sabotage is met — because of the capability and intent to carry out the operation. There are no other plausible suspects.
“It is difficult to imagine any other actor in the region having the ability and interest to carry out such an operation,” the Danish military official said.
Russia has requested a UN Security Council meeting on the damaged pipeline this week – which the senior US official said is also dubious. Normally, the official said, Russia is not organized enough to move so quickly, suggesting the maneuver was premeditated.
If Russia caused the explosions on purpose, it would effectively be sabotaging its own pipelines: Russian state-owned company Gazprom is the majority shareholder in Nord Stream 1 and the sole owner of Nord Stream 2.
But officials familiar with the latest intelligence said Moscow would likely see such a move as a price if it helped raise the cost of supporting Ukraine to Europe. American and Western intelligence officials Russian President Vladimir Putin is sure to be gambling. That as electricity costs rise and winter approaches, Europeans may turn against Western strategies to isolate Russia economically. Sabotaging the pipelines “could show what Russia is capable of,” a US official said.
Russia has already taken steps to manipulate energy flows, not only to its economic detriment but also to Europe. Russia cut gas supplies to Europe through Nord Stream 1 before suspending the flow entirely in August, blaming Western sanctions for technical difficulties. European politicians say it was an excuse to stop gas supplies.
“They’ve already shown they’re perfectly happy to do that,” said one of the sources. “They weigh their economic pain against Europe.”
The new Nord Stream 2 pipeline has yet to enter commercial operations. Germany scrapped plans to use it for gas supplies days before Russia sent troops into Ukraine in February.
However, US, European and Ukrainian officials have been warning for months that Russia could target critical infrastructure not only in Ukraine but also in the US and Europe as part of its war on Ukraine.
The US warned several European allies over the summer, including Germany. Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines According to two people familiar with the intelligence and the warnings, the threats could be met and even attacked.
The warnings were based on U.S. intelligence assessments, but they were vague, the people said — it was unclear from the warnings who might be responsible for any attack on the pipelines or when it might happen.
The CIA declined to comment.
Der Spiegel was the first to report the intelligence warnings.