NATO to Discuss Damage to Gas Pipeline and Data Cable
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced on Wednesday that the alliance will hold discussions regarding the damage to a gas pipeline and data cable connecting Finland and Estonia. Stoltenberg emphasized that if the cause of the damage is proven to be a deliberate attack, NATO will respond with determination.
The damage to the Balticconnector pipeline and telecommunications cable was confirmed after Finland’s Gasgrid detected a drop in pressure and a potential leak during a storm on Sunday night. The Finnish government stated that the damage was likely caused by external activity and is currently under investigation. This incident has raised concerns about regional energy security and led to an increase in gas prices.
Stoltenberg stated that it is crucial to determine what exactly happened and how it occurred. If it is confirmed to be a deliberate attack on critical infrastructure, NATO will respond unitedly and with determination.
The Balticconnector pipeline, which runs between Inkoo in Finland and Paldiski in Estonia, crosses the Gulf of Finland and ends at the port of St Petersburg in Russia. It is jointly operated by Estonian electricity and gas system operator Elering and Finnish gas transmission system operator Gasgrid.
The operators have stated that repairing the pipeline will take at least five months, with gas transfers potentially resuming by April next year. The Kremlin has described the incident as “disturbing” and stated that it is awaiting further information. It is worth noting that Russia’s Nord Stream pipelines were previously damaged in an attack in the Baltic Sea.
The Finnish Institute for International Affairs has highlighted the importance of NATO’s response if evidence of state involvement in the pipeline damage emerges. Questions regarding potential countermeasures and deterrence in the face of sabotage activities have also been raised.
The Finnish government has increased preparedness levels at critical infrastructure, and officials, including President Sauli Niinisto, were given an overview of the situation in an extraordinary meeting held on Wednesday.
Pipeline and Telecoms Cable Damage
Estonian Defence Minister Hanno Pevkur has described the damages to the pipeline and telecoms cable as caused by a significant external force. Possible causes include mechanical impact or destruction. The pipeline and cable run parallel to each other at a significant distance.
The damage to the pipeline occurred in Finnish waters, while the cable breach took place in Estonian waters. Finnish investigators have stated that both incidents happened within the same time frame on Sunday. Estonian Navy Commander Juri Saska noted that the pipeline’s concrete casing appeared to have been torn apart at the point of injury.
The damage to the pipeline and telecoms line will not affect Finland’s electricity system, as confirmed by grid operator Fingrid. Gas accounts for 5% of Finland’s energy needs.
The Balticconnector pipeline, which opened in December 2019, aims to integrate gas markets in the region and provide greater supply flexibility to Finland and the Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.