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EU officials and others are concerned about explosions at Nord Stream pipelines


The Swedish Coast Guard now says they've found four leaks in the Nord Stream pipelines set up to deliver gas from Russia to Germany. The seismologists say there were blasts detected nearby before the pipelines were damaged.


European leaders have said the explosions and the leaks on the Nord Stream pipelines were deliberate acts. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and some other EU officials have gone so far as to call it sabotage. There is growing concern about how vulnerable oil and gas installations around Europe are to some kind of intentional attack.

FADEL: Sweden, Germany and Denmark have all opened investigations. The Kremlin says they're also looking into what happened and are calling for an objective review. They've called accusations of sabotage against Russia absurd. NPR's international affairs correspondent Jackie Northam has been following developments and joins us now to talk about this. Hi, Jackie.


FADEL: Good morning. So these two pipelines were supposed to be carrying Russian natural gas to Europe. But neither were operating, right? So does this really have any impact when it comes to European energy supply?

NORTHAM: Well, you're right. Neither pipeline was operating. Germany had halted the Nord Stream 2 project just days before Russia invaded Ukraine. And then Moscow turned off the taps on Nord Stream 1 in August in retaliation for sanctions on Russia and Europe's support of Ukraine. So there hasn't been any gas moving through those pipelines, right now anyway. And in the short term, it has no impact. In the medium to long term, Europe can forget about getting gas from those pipelines again.

FADEL: So no, really, even promise of future gas from these pipelines now. What are European countries doing to make up for the shortfall in Russian gas overall?

NORTHAM: Well, they've been trying to do everything they can right now, you know, including firing up old coal power plants and rethinking shutting down nuclear power plants. European leaders have also been scouring the world, trying to find new supplies and, you know, from places like the U.S. and Qatar and Algeria. There's a bigger issue here, though. I spoke with Robert McNally, who's the president of Rapidan Energy Group. And he said what we're looking at now is a world energy war. He says it started when Russia cut the flow of gas in Nord Stream 1, which Europe depended on. And he said it's created shifting alliances and more competition. You know, Europe's going to have to bid against countries like Japan and China even more now. Let's have a listen.

ROBERT MCNALLY: Everybody is slowly and surely getting drawn into this energy war. It's not just going to be a European energy war. It's just the integrated nature of global energy markets. And countries make decisions on what to buy, where to buy from based on policy and political and geopolitical considerations.

NORTHAM: And, Leila, McNally says, what we're looking at now is really the biggest geopolitical disruptions in global energy markets since the late 1970s, you know, when you had the oil embargo.

FADEL: OK. Given that Europe is in such a precarious energy situation, as you've described, has this incident on the Nord Stream pipelines, especially if it's proven to be deliberate, raised security concerns about energy infrastructure more broadly?

NORTHAM: Oh, this has definitely been a wake-up call for Europe and most likely the U.S. about the vulnerability of critical infrastructure. You know, there are a lot of gas pipelines and power and telecommunication cables crisscrossing Europe. And any of them could be a target. And we saw Norway and Denmark come out yesterday saying they've increased their security around oil and gas installations. And Norway has this new pipeline that sends gas to Poland. It's about to go online. And it could be open to attack. And today, a Swedish news agency said there's been a fourth leak found on one of the Nord Stream pipelines.

FADEL: NPR's international affairs correspondent Jackie Northam. Jackie, thanks.

NORTHAM: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Jackie Northam is NPR's International Affairs Correspondent. She is a veteran journalist who has spent three decades reporting on conflict, geopolitics, and life across the globe - from the mountains of Afghanistan and the desert sands of Saudi Arabia, to the gritty prison camp at Guantanamo Bay and the pristine beauty of the Arctic.

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