Norway has announced it will receive help from the United Kingdom, Germany and France to patrol the seas around its oil and gas platforms, following major leaks blamed on sabotage on the subsea gas pipelines from Russia to Europe.
Russia’s Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines burst this week, draining huge volumes of gas into the Baltic Sea off the coast of Denmark and Sweden.
The European Union said it suspected an act of deliberate sabotage had caused the damage, while Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday accused the United States and its allies of blowing up the pipelines.
The attacks have prompted Norway, Western Europe’s biggest oil and gas producer, to deploy its navy, coast guard and air force to beef up oil and gas security.
“We’re in a dialogue with our allies regarding increased presence in the Norwegian [offshore] sector and have said yes to contributions from Germany, France and Britain,” Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere told a news conference on Friday.
He stressed that Norway had no indications of direct threats, but that it was nevertheless prudent to beef up security.
“In this situation, it is safe to have allies,” Stoere said, without elaborating on the level of assistance the NATO member nation would receive.
A visit to the North Sea Sleipner field, a major source of gas which is piped to Europe, was scheduled for Saturday. “I will get a briefing and meet employees on the platform. They are many and they are important,” he said.
Norway has become an increasingly vital partner in Europe, stepping up gas production to provide approximately 30 percent of gas demand and becoming the most important single source of gas supply.
However, its supplies of oil, gas and hydropower are largely produced offshore and depend on a network of undersea pipelines and cables.
To ward off potential attacks in advance of the coming winter months, European countries on Friday moved to secure their energy networks, with Italy stepping up naval surveillance on pipeline routes and German grid operators increasing the security of transmission lines.
Putin has denied sabotaging the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines, blaming instead the “Anglo-Saxons” in the West for what he described as an attempt to “destroy the European energy infrastructure”.
Speaking in Moscow at a ceremony to annex four regions of Ukraine into Russia, he said that “those who profit from it have done it,” without naming a specific country.
The US has long been opposed to the two pipelines and had repeatedly urged Germany to halt them, saying they increase Europe’s energy dependence on Russia and decrease its security.
US President Joe Biden said the explosions were an act of sabotage and that divers would be sent to check “exactly what happened”.
“It was a deliberate act of sabotage and the Russians are pumping out disinformation and lies. We’ll work with our allies to get to the bottom [of] exactly, precisely what happened,” Biden told reporters.
The bursting of the pipes produced two methane leaks off Sweden, including a large one above North Stream 1 and a smaller one above North Stream 2, and two leaks off Denmark.
In a letter to the UN, the two Scandinavian countries said the blasts that rocked the Baltic Sea before the huge methane leaks “probably corresponded to an explosive load of several hundred kilos”.
The Integrated Carbon Observation System, a European research alliance, said “an enormous amount of methane gas has been released into the atmosphere,” adding it corresponds to the size of a whole year’s methane emissions for a city the size of Paris or a country like Denmark.
NATO warned on Thursday it would retaliate for any attacks on the critical infrastructure of its 30 member countries and joined other Western officials in citing sabotage as the likely cause of damage.
Denmark is a NATO member and Sweden is in the process of joining the military alliance. Both say the pipelines were deliberately attacked.
Moscow asked for a thorough international probe to assess the damage and requested an emergency meeting at the UN Security Council scheduled for Friday.