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A week after some suspicious cracks were discovered along the undersea Nord Stream pipeline, gas has reported to have stopped leaking but the questions continued to flow. Specifically: What – and who – caused the damage? And how can countries try to prevent similar incidents in the future?
Scientists say the two leaks may have been caused by powerful underwater explosions, based on seismic data from Sweden and Denmark. And European leaders believe those leaks were no accident, with NATO blames “deliberate, reckless and irresponsible vandalism.”
Sweden, Denmark and Germany have all opened investigations, while Russia – whose state-controlled energy company, Gazprom, is the main owner of the pipelines – is calling for a review and Blame the West.
Both pipelines were inactive at the time of the leak, since Moscow cut off the flow to Nord Stream 1 in August (in retaliation for Europe’s support of Ukraine and sanctions in Russia) and Germany postponed the opening of Nord Stream 2 just before Russia invaded Ukraine in February. .
However, the problem was raised some concerns on the impact on the environment (because of the large amount Methane gas harms the climate it releases) and Europe’s energy supply, as well as the broader vulnerability of critical infrastructure.
The Nord Stream leak is seen as a warning that any one of the many gas, electricity and telecommunications lines that cross Europe could be targeted, like NPR’s Jackie Northam booked it. Note, countries like Norway, Denmark, Italy and Poland have stepped up security and surveillance around their undersea pipelines in recent days.
There are about 730,000 miles of pipelines around the world, enough to around the Earth 30 times, said national security analyst Juliette Kayyem. And that’s excluding the internet connection cord, which she says is “a million miles of cable, basically.”
Kayyem said the pipelines are “the lifeline for these countries to keep moving and living, accessing electricity” Morning versionA Martínez on Monday. “They’re vulnerable because they’re big, they’re exposed – at least on the ocean floor – and they’re difficult to protect.”
What steps can countries take to protect their critical infrastructure?
That’s not to say no one is trying to protect these vulnerable pipelines, Kayyem says.
“We should think about it more and people think about it too,” she explains. “The standard is not ‘Can we make it secure?’ It’s just like, ‘Can we make it safer?’ At this stage, can we mitigate the risks to these pipelines?”
According to Kayyem, there are four main ways that security experts think of to reduce risk.
It involves building more protective pipelines that can resist intrusions, control access to pipes, monitor them, and prevent potential attacks.
Kayyem says the Nord Stream incident shows the importance of monitoring and making sure countries know which boats and submarines are around the pipeline. These types of pipes have a lot of detection equipment, she adds, which can help authorities find out if nearby objects are whales or a real threat.
And if something looks like it’s attacking a pipeline, are a nation’s forces prepared to pursue it? Kayyem says they can use battleships, submarines or even devices like drones to “get things out”.
“It’s a bit like war, because you’re defending something that will be attacked in a war,” she added.
Not all threats come from land or sea. Just last spring when a temporary ransomware attack closure of the Colonial Pipelinetransporting gas, diesel and jet fuel along the East Coast of the United States from Texas to New York.
Kayyem says it’s important for countries and companies to plan for these types of disruptions so they can prepare to restore their systems as quickly as possible.
“We have to anticipate that there will be attacks,” she said. “And the criterion of success is can we get back online quickly.”
The audio interview was produced by Naina Badarinath Rao and Julie Depenbrock, and edited by Simone Popperl and Reena Advani.