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Has Russia’s Energy War Entered a New Phase?

After mysterious explosions hit two Russian gas pipelines, European leaders are bracing for the worst.

By , a reporter at Foreign Policy.
The Castoro 10 pipelay vessel lays pipe for Nord Stream 2.
The Castoro 10 pipelay vessel lays pipe for Nord Stream 2.
The Castoro 10 pipelay vessel lays concrete-coated pipe for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline onto the seabed of the Baltic Sea near Lubmin, Germany, on Aug. 16, 2018. Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re looking at the mysterious leaks on the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines, a mass exodus from Russia, and an investigation into Mexico’s missing students

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Mysterious Explosions Hit Nord Stream Pipelines

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, where we’re looking at the mysterious leaks on the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines, a mass exodus from Russia, and an investigation into Mexico’s missing students. 

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


Mysterious Explosions Hit Nord Stream Pipelines

European countries are on high alert after mysterious blasts hit two Russian gas pipelines this week, fueling suspicions of potential sabotage and intensifying the risk of further escalation in Europe’s energy crisis.

The explosions on Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 come after the Kremlin spent months tightening the screws on Europe’s natural gas supply, pitching the continent into a grave energy crisis that has only worsened in recent weeks. Although neither pipeline had been operational, they both held gas that is now leaking into the Baltic Sea. 

Officials and energy experts say the ruptures were likely deliberate since there were three separate leaks and seismologists had detected underwater explosions that would not have been triggered by an earthquake or other geological event.

“The probability would be zero that this is accidental or natural,” said Henning Gloystein, an energy expert at the Eurasia Group, who added that it is “almost certainly an act of sabotage.” 

Danish, German, and Swedish authorities have now launched investigations into who perpetrated a potential attack. Several European officials, however, have stated publicly that they suspect Moscow is to blame. The Kremlin, meanwhile, has said “no possibility can be ruled out” in explaining the cause of the leaks. 

Attacks on infrastructure could signify a new phase in Russia and Europe’s battle for energy, said Alex Munton, an expert on global gas markets at Rapidan Energy Group, a consultancy. This is “an escalation in the conflict with potentially direct attacks on physical infrastructure,” he said. “The implications are: What other infrastructure might be vulnerable to something similar happening?

Rattled European leaders are now bracing for the worst and expanding security measures to protect their energy infrastructure. Norway has urged vigilance after reporting unidentified drones hovering by its offshore oil and gas facilities, whereas Denmark announced it would increase its preparedness level and tighten security.

If operational energy facilities are attacked in the future, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen warned it would “lead to the strongest possible response.” “Any deliberate disruption of active European energy infrastructure is unacceptable,” she tweeted.

“We have moved beyond any semblance of normal commercial arrangements,” Munton said. “If the intention is to increase Europe’s energy insecurity and that is the overriding aim … that is what has come to pass.”


What We’re Following Today

Mass exodus from Russia. To escape Russian President Vladimir Putin’s partial mobilization order, nearly 200,000 Russians have now entered Kazakhstan, Georgia, and Finland while satellite images show a 10-mile-long line of vehicles attempting to cross into Georgia.

Kazakh officials said they would only repatriate the fleeing men if they were internationally wanted. “We must take care of them and ensure their safety. It is a political and a humanitarian issue,” said Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. “I tasked the government to take the necessary measures.”

Investigating Mexico’s missing students. Omar Gómez Trejo, the lead prosecutor overseeing Mexico’s efforts to investigate the 2014 disappearance of 43 students, has resigned over “differences” and disagreements concerning the “procedures that were followed to approve the arrest orders,” Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced on Tuesday. His resignation coincided with the eighth anniversary of the students’ abduction on Monday. 


Keep an Eye On 

Bangladesh’s ferry tragedy. At least 66 people have died and 15 more are still missing after an overcrowded ferry transporting around 100 Hindu pilgrims capsized in Bangladesh on Sunday. Authorities said the boat may have been holding three times the number of people it was designed to carry. It is the country’s deadliest maritime tragedy in seven years. 

Cuba’s power outage. Cuba faced a nationwide power outage on Tuesday after Hurricane Ian swept through the country, killing at least two people and leaving 11 million people in the dark, the Washington Post reported. “The damages are great, although they have not yet been accounted,” Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel tweeted. “Aid is already pouring in from all over the country.” The Category 3 hurricane is now headed for Florida’s west coast and is expected to make landfall there later today.


Tuesday’s Most Read

Is Italy Seeing the Rise of a New Fascism? by Cameron Abadi

What Russia’s Elites Think of Putin Now by Tatiana Stanovaya

Europe’s Energy Crisis Is Destroying the Multipolar World by Jeff D. Colgan


Odds and Ends 

A Scottish bakery was forced to temporarily close its doors to allow authorities to rescue a protected red squirrel that became lost in the store. Once the squirrel returned to its home and the facilities were cleaned, the shop said it would open again.

“The wee thing looked a little stressed, running all around, jumping on the chairs,” Shona Rollo, from Pitlochry, Scotland, told the BBC, while adding that it ran around in a “very ninja-like” fashion.

Christina Lu is a reporter at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @christinafei

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