Assessment of the Nord Stream Explosion

One year ago, the Nord Stream pipelines were blown up. The crime remains unsolved. It has serious consequences for Germany’s gas supply.

BERLIN/MOSCOW (Own report) – One year after the attack on the Nord Stream Pipelines the crime remains unsolved – with serious consequences for Germany’s gas supply. Whereas research by U.S. journalist Seymour Hersh has concluded that the attack was planned and carried out by US agencies, politicians and media in Germany favor a theory that exonerates the United States. The explosion of the pipelines excludes the possibility that they could again be operated in the future, for example after a ceasefire agreement, in case of serious supply bottlenecks, or– although certainly not foreseeable at present – in case of the German government’s change of course. Tokyo, for example, has imposed sanctions on Russia, however, to secure its own supply, is strictly exempting Russian gas imports from those sanctions. Germany’s necessary shift to LNG imports is progressing rapidly, presumably also by purchasing Russian LNG via Belgium – at a much higher price than pipeline gas, once delivered via Nord Stream 1. The LNG import terminals under construction on Germany’s coasts are once again prolonging the duration of fossil fuel imports.

War Crimes or Terrorist Attack

The attack on the two Nord Stream pipelines committed a year ago has still not been solved. Immediately after the attack, experts were convinced that the blast must have been state-commissioned. Too much explosive material and logistical effort would be required to cause an explosion that would be registered as an earthquake, even at a considerable distance from geological monitoring stations, as was the case, when the Nord Stream pipelines were blown up. Research by US investigative journalist Seymour Hersh concluded that the attack had been carried out by US agencies in cooperation with soldiers from the Norwegian armed forces.[1] Politicians and the media in Germany prefer another theory, according to which Polish and Ukrainian private individuals had been responsible.[2] This, of course, runs counter to the conviction that the attack could not have been executed without the capabilities and capacities that only states possess. According to jurists, if Russia or Ukraine would have been responsible, it would constitute a war crime; if a third state was responsible, it would be a terrorist attack. Damages will not be compensated, explained Stefan Talmon, an international law expert from Bonn. In court, any perpetrator could invoke the so-called state immunity, which also covers such illegal attacks.”[3]

Excluded also for the Future

While it remains unclear who blew up the two gas pipelines or three of their four lines running from Russia to Germany, the consequences are obvious: The option of purchasing larger supplies of the pipeline gas from Russia, is not only excluded for the time being, but also for the future – even if an eventual ceasefire agreement between Moscow and Kiev would mean a reduction in the sanctions on Russia. Observers are not ruling this out. Many experts consider that the very idea that Germany could again receive Russian pipeline gas is “nonsense” or even “absurd.”[4] That this must not necessarily be the case, can be seen with the example of Japan. Tokyo participates in the West’s sanctions against Russia, however, it has strictly exempted from sanctions the import of Russian LNG, on which that country is dependent. The Japanese companies Mitsui and Mitsubishi still maintain 22.5 percent of the shares in the Russian Sakhalin 2 natural gas project, which covers 9 percent of Japan’s LNG imports.[5] In addition, Tokyo is seeking to secure participation in the Russian Arctic LNG 2 production project, even though that project is currently under US sanctions.[6]

New Import Structures

The ultimate termination of natural gas import via the Nord Stream pipes has made a rapid transformation of Germany’s import structures necessary. Whereas, at the beginning of 2022, Germany had been importing a third of its gas supplies via the Nord Stream 1, by September 2022 imports from Russia were down to zero, according to available statistic from the industry.[7] Norway has risen to replace Russia as the main supplier of natural gas, most recently accounting for almost half of Germany’s natural gas imports, ahead of the Netherlands and Belgium. The share of LNG delivered directly to the new import terminals at the German coast had amounted to only 6.4 percent in the first semester of 2023.[8] According to data from Germany’s Federal Association of Energy and Water Industry (BDEW), most of the latter was delivered from the USA. However, this data only inadequately reflect the true origins of the gas being consumed in Germany. For example, LNG is also being imported from Belgium, that had been regasified in Zeebrugge and transported further. The BDEW affirms that “the country of origin cannot be clearly determined” for transborder traded gas. The reason being “the particularly tight meshing of the European pipeline network,” wherein “gas of varying origins are constantly blended.”[9]

More Expensive

However, information from the analysis company Kpler provides insight on the import of LNG. Quoting these reports, the Financial Times recently informed that the largest LNG supplier to the EU over the first seven months of 2023 was the United States – with about 43 percent of the entire supply. The second largest amount – around 16 percent – came from Russia.[10] According to calculations made by the organization Global Witness – which also uses Kpler data – from January to July 2023, the EU had increased its import of Russian LNG by 40 percent compared to the same period in pre-war 2021. Today it buys more than half of Russia’s total LNG exports – around 52 percent.[11] The world’s second largest customer of Russian LNG is Spain, with 18 percent of all Russian exports – hardly less than the top customer, China (at 20 percent). Third largest customer, according to these statistics, is Belgium (17 percent), one of Germany’s three main suppliers. Due to the complex processing involved, Russian LNG is also more expensive than pipeline gas. Thus the EU countries, including Germany, are today paying much more for imported Russian natural gas, than they had paid before the Ukraine war.

Particularly Hazardous to the Environment

The termination of natural gas acquisition via the Nord Stream pipelines has made the German government push ahead even more vigorously with the construction of LNG import terminals along the German coast. Terminals in Wilhelmshaven, Brunsbüttel and Lubmin are already in regular operation. Other terminals are planned for Stade,and off shore from Rügen, as well as a second in Wilhelmshaven.[12] Protest is being raised against plans to construct a terminal off the coast of Rügen. Environmentalists fear serious damage to the regional ecosystem. Also criticized is the fact that particularly LNG from the US is being imported, which is to a large extent obtained through fracking, especially hazardous to the environment. Also criticized is the fact that these terminals will be in service until 2043, which prolongs the use of fossil fuel.[13] Even Nord Stream 2, long-since completed, would have amortized its costs much earlier.


[1] See also Tatort Ostsee (II) and Tatort Ostsee (III).

[2], [3] Matthias von Hein: Nordstream-Sprengung: Viel Spekulation, wenige Fakten. 25.09.2023.

[4] Carola Tunk: Nord-Stream-Anschläge: Wirtschaftliche Beziehungen zu Russland nach Kriegsende – ja oder nein? 19.09.2023.

[5] Davide Ghilotti: Japanese trader Mitsui has no plans for Russian LNG exit. 21.06.2023.

[6] Amidst Arctic investment, Japan pledges G7 cooperation on fresh sanctions on Russia. 25.09.2023.

[7] BDEW: Erdgasdaten aktuell. 31.08.2023.

[8] Deutsche LNG-Terminals importieren kaum Gas. 14.07.2023.

[9] BDEW: Erdgasdaten aktuell. 31.08.2023.

[10] Alice Hancock, Shotaro Tani: EU imports record volumes of liquefied natural gas from Russia. 30.08.2023.

[11] EU imports of Russian LNG have jumped by 40% since the invasion of Ukraine. 30.08.2023.

[12], [13] LNG: Wie viel Flüssigerdgas kommt derzeit in Deutschland an? 25.09.2023.