Gazprom suggests to Germany that it could send gas through the branch of the Nord Stream 2 that was not damaged in the sabotage | International
The mystery of the explosions in the Russian Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines, considered a "sabotage" by the EU, NATO and the affected European governments, adds a new chapter. Gazprom, the energy arm of the Kremlin, now suggests to Germany the shipment of gas through the only one of the four branches that was not damaged and that corresponds to the new gas pipeline, 2, which was never put into operation because the German government paralyzed it on the eve of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The sabotage has left Nord Stream 1 completely unusable, the conduit through which since 2011 gas had been flowing directly from Russia to Germany through the Baltic Seabed until Russia cut off the supply in early September, alleging a fault.
The message that Moscow seems to be sending is: the Nord Stream 1 (NS1) has been destroyed, if Europe wants to have Russian gas again it is going to have to give free rein to the commissioning of the Nord Stream 2 (NS2), a gas pipeline in the that Russia and several European companies have invested more than 10,000 million euros and about which the United States and several Eastern European countries had been warning for years. The previous German chancellors (Gerhard Schröder and Angela Merkel) had promoted the project claiming that it was a private business. More than an infrastructure, the NS2 is considered a Russian geopolitical weapon with which Moscow intended to deepen Germany's energy dependence. The gas pipeline starred in one of the most delicate moments in diplomatic relations between Washington and Berlin when the former imposed sanctions on those involved in its construction.
“Since the sabotage bypassed Nord Stream 2 line B, Gazprom now says it will be able to send gas to Germany through that line, as the other three are affected. In other words, Germany opens the Nord Stream 2 or zero Russian gas. What a coincidence!” says Simone Tagliapietra, energy expert at the thinktank Brueghel, on his Twitter account. The fact that the explosions affected the two branches of the NS1 and one of the NS2 is one of the indications that Russia could be behind the sabotage, according to experts and analysts consulted by EL PAÍS. Moscow not only denies responsibility, but also accuses the United States and NATO.
"If the decision is made to start deliveries via Nord Stream 2, the natural gas will be pumped into the pipeline after the integrity of the system has been checked," Gazprom said in a statement reporting Monday that the pressure in the two pipelines has stabilized. The Danish authorities closed the gas leaks on Sunday but on Monday the Swedish Coast Guard reported that some gas is still coming out of the smaller leak detected on the NS2, which still produces a bubbling circle on the surface of about 15-20 meters in diameter, as verified by an airplane at six in the afternoon. The main leak, which once measured about 900 meters in diameter, is no longer visible.
Last week two leaks were found in each gas pipeline, two in Danish territorial waters and two in Swedish ones. Neither pipeline was in service; the NS2 because it was blocked by Germany when Moscow recognized the self-proclaimed separatist republics of Donbas, and the NS1 because Russia was reducing the supply throughout the summer until at the beginning of September it was completely cut off. Both were, however, filled with gas.
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Moscow has fueled theories that the West is to blame for the attack because the United States gains by destroying the gas pipelines. Experts say the signs point to an act of hybrid warfare by Russia. The attacks have put on the table the vulnerability of Europe's key infrastructures. The European Union and NATO, which have promised a forceful response, have begun to take steps to strengthen security around their energy assets. Norway has deployed the Army to its oil and gas infrastructure despite the fact that it has no Baltic coastline.
Sweden has sent an underwater rescue vessel to the area on Monday to begin the investigation of what happened underwater. The escape of the gas had prevented it until now. The prohibition of navigation in five nautical miles around the leaks continues to be maintained. The Swedish Prosecutor's Office has reported that it considers the area to be the "scene of a crime".
Germany, which until a few months ago depended on 55% of Russian gas, has sought alternative suppliers of natural gas (Norway above all) and has restarted its coal-fired power plants in order to dispense with Russian hydrocarbon as soon as possible. Its reserves are at 92% capacity and the chancellor, Olaf Scholz, has assured that it is enough to get through the winter. Berlin's plans do not include buying Russian gas again, so Gazprom's offer is likely to be rejected. The Russian gas company's suggestion comes after remarks by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak, in which he said Nord Stream could be repaired given enough time and money.
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