After NATO condemned the Nord Stream pipeline gas leaks as an act of sabotage, Russia’s top intelligence chief Sergei Naryshkin said Moscow has evidence the West is to blame.
In this article, we will explore five reasons why Russia is probably responsible for this dangerous act.
Firstly, Putin is motivated. Putin is desperate to reverse the momentum on the battlefield by escalating the conflict dramatically. His goal is to get the U.S. and Europe to stop providing Ukraine with long-range weapons. The outcome of the Ukrainian conflict is an existential issue for him personally and for Russia as a whole. A strategic security perimeter around Russia includes Ukraine and other former Soviet states.
The addition of Ukraine to NATO and integration into the West has already been declared a “red line.” Moscow views this as its version of the Monroe Doctrine.
It is more risky for Putin to have Ukraine join NATO than to be condemned by NATO as a sponsor of industrial terrorism. Putin is frustrated that he is not taken seriously, and he wants to send what he sees as a clear message.
The second reason is that destroying or damaging critical infrastructure is consistent with Russia’s warfighting concept called Strategic Operation to Defeat Critical Infrastructure of the Adversary (SOPKVOP). In a conflict they had concluded was inevitable since Moscow and Washington have been in conflict over control of the post-Soviet space since the collapse of the USSR in 1991, Russian strategists spent decades conceptualizing ways to bypass the conventional superiority of the U.S. and NATO.
Although SOPKVOP operations are designed for wartime, they can also be applied in peacetime to dislodge the adversary psychologically and force him to surrender. Russia prioritizes critical infrastructure in its targeting strategy. A number of years have been devoted to studying Western vulnerabilities. Through the use of cyber operations and other non-kinetic methods, SOPKVOP envisions prosecuting quasi-military campaigns.
Third, Russian military strategists have speculated about targeting an adversary’s civilian infrastructure during a conflict. A “small number of key interconnected targets” that are crucial to the functioning of the state, they argued, would cause the “entire system” to collapse.
Russian strategists analyzed a 2001 accident in the United States that involved a train transporting hazardous chemical materials that veered off the tracks in a tunnel in Baltimore in 2012. A water pipe burst in the accident, causing a three-foot flood in Baltimore that disrupted telecommunications and mail delivery services. All trains and automobiles along the Baltimore-to-New York corridor were disrupted.
Russian strategists argued that destroying parts of the adversary’s civilian infrastructure would have cascading negative effects on his economy, healthcare, defense, and security.
The fourth factor is that Russia is one of the very few countries with the ability to covertly sever the Nord Stream gas pipelines. As part of its GUGI program, which goes by the innocuous name of “Deep Sea Research,” Moscow has developed undersea warfare capabilities through research into undersea communications and sensor networks, hydrocarbon exploration, submarine rescue, and wreck recovery.
It has wargamed territorial incursions in the Baltic Sea and the North Atlantic, as well as the disruption of undersea cables that carry communication signals. In fact, the country is the only one, according to the U.S. Naval Institute, to possess a fleet of special mission submarines for seabed warfare and espionage, while antisubmarine warfare capabilities in the U.S. and Europe have declined.
The fifth reason is that Putin is not interested in Nord Stream in the short term since neither pipeline 1 nor 2 generate revenue for him. In August, Russia shut down Nord Stream 1, claiming that sanctions imposed by the U.S. and Europe prevented maintenance. Germany declined to certify Nord Stream 2, which never became operational. As a result of Nord Stream’s shutdown, Putin will use energy as a weapon to freeze the Europeans in winter, which he does repeatedly.
As a result, Russia is replacing these lost revenues with export earnings from non-Western countries, such as China, India, and even the Taliban. In light of Moscow’s conclusion that relations with the United States are irreparable, “The Power of Siberia” is part of Putin’s long-term plan to pivot to Asia.
Clearly, the Kremlin has the motive, the means, and the warfighting doctrine to sabotage the Nord Stream pipeline.
- Nord Stream damage caused by hundreds of pounds of TNT, UN told Business Insider
- Biden calls Nord Stream pipeline leaks a ‘deliberate act of sabotage’ CNN
- Danes: Nord Stream 2 pipeline seems to have stopped leaking The Independent
- UK’s Truss meets Danish counterpart, discuss Nord Stream ‘sabotage’ Reuters UK