Why experts and officials say the pipeline leaks were no accident (and why many of them are blaming Russia).
While European governments have not yet identified the cause of the leaks in the Nord Stream gas pipelines, several political leaders, including Mette Frederiksen, Denmark’s prime minister, and two top European Union officials, have said they were unlikely to have been accidental.
For one thing, three leaks, miles apart, seem unlikely to be random occurrences. And these pipelines are not fragile constructions. They are robustly built of steel, coated with concrete, to withstand the water pressures on the floor of the Baltic Sea as they carry natural gas from Russia to Germany.
Officials in Poland and Ukraine, among others, have pointed the finger at Russia, whose state-controlled energy company, Gazprom, is the main owner of the pipelines. On Wednesday, the Kremlin called suggestions of Russian involvement “stupid,” and has pointed the finger at the United States.
In some respects, disrupting the pipelines serves little immediate purpose for anyone — although both were filled, neither was transmitting natural gas at the time.
And on the surface, it is unclear why Moscow would seek to damage installations that cost Gazprom many billions of dollars. The leaks are expected to delay any possibility of receiving revenue from fuel going through the pipes.
On the other hand, the natural gas market is spooked, which helps Russia by raising the price of its gas and the anxieties of European leaders. The ruptures occurred as energy markets were beginning to come around to the view that most of Europe could avoid shortages this winter by finding alternative supplies and filling gas storage facilities.
They could also be a reminder from Moscow that if European countries keep up their support for Ukraine, they risk sabotage to vital energy infrastructure.
By Monday, benchmark European gas futures prices had nearly halved from their August high. After news of the leaks, they have risen about 13 percent to nearly 200 euros ($191) per megawatt-hour, roughly five times the level of a year ago.
Over the last year, Gazprom and Russia have taken steps like turning the flows up and down on the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, moves that analysts say were intended to raise political tensions and energy prices.
“Russia had to do something to keep the pressure up,” Massimo Di Odoardo, vice president for gas research at Wood Mackenzie, an energy consulting firm, said of the leaks. “Same old story!”