Irish Examiner view: Europe’s supervillain is hard at work

Calm heads are needed in the wake of the disruptions to the Nord Stream natural gas pipelines 
Irish Examiner view: Europe’s supervillain is hard at work

Poland's prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki said the explosions that damaged the Nord Stream natural gas pipelines were due to 'an act of sabotage'.  Picture: Olivier Matthys/AP

News that the Nord Stream natural gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea were leaking was a worrying development in and of itself, before further details about the situation began to emerge over the last 48 hours.

The pipelines, which carry gas from Russia to Europe, haven’t just sprung a sudden leak — seismologists in Sweden have stated that there is no doubt there were explosions in the area where the pipelines are located, according to their instrument readings. 

This has unsurprisingly set off plenty of diplomatic — or undiplomatic — commentary on who might be responsible. The Polish prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, has called the damage an “act of sabotage” and while his Danish counterpart Mette Frederiksen stopped short of using the term “sabotage”, she did say she viewed the leaks as “deliberate actions”.

Damaging such pipelines sounds like a strategy from a James Bond film — specifically, the grand designs of a super-villain intent on holding Europe to ransom for his own nefarious ends. In this instance, there has been no delay in identifying the potential villain of the piece.

Security analysts have stated that the explosions could only have been instigated by a submarine in the area operating on behalf of a sovereign state as opposed to a terrorist group, and with Russia increasingly isolated on the international stage because of the war in Ukraine, the finger of suspicion is pointed firmly eastwards.

The implications of the damage are worrying — in general it points to the relative fragility of Europe’s energy security, when just a couple of pipelines are so vital to keeping the entire continent supplied with natural gas.

Also, in the short term, the damaged pipelines may have a significant impact on energy supply in Europe during the coming winter. While they are not currently delivering gas to Europe, it is unlikely they will be on line as the longer nights start drawing in.

Factor in the sabre-rattling by various diplomats mentioned above, and calm heads are needed. Perhaps the cerebral protagonists of Borgen provide a better template for proceeding than James Bond and his penchant for sudden violence.

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