Nord Stream Pipeline Breaks Look Deliberate, Europeans Say

The Central Intelligence Agency delivered a vague warning in June to several European nations, including Germany, that the Nord Stream pipelines could be attacked, according to several senior U.S. officials familiar with the intelligence. They declined to say whether that warning identified Russia as a possible attacker, and said they had reached no conclusion about who was responsible for the incidents on Monday.

The C.I.A. warning was first reported on Tuesday by the German publication Der Spiegel. The agency declined to comment.

Before Moscow sent troops into Ukraine in February, Russia provided more than half of all natural gas imported by Germany and more than 40 percent used across the European Union, which relied heavily on it to heat homes, generate electricity and run factories. Days before the war began, Germany refused to let the just-completed Nord Stream 2 begin pumping gas from Siberia, and the European Union joined the United States in imposing stiff economic sanctions on Russia.

Moscow then began diminishing its supplies through existing lines, first choking off flows through overland pipelines, as President Vladimir V. Putin appeared to calculate that Russia could absorb the resulting economic pain longer than Europe could. Over the summer, Nord Stream 1 operated at a fraction of its capacity, and the flow halted in late August. The escalation has sent the price of gas soaring and forced leaders to call on businesses and citizens to reduce consumption or face rationing in the winter.

Reflecting the market’s sensitivity to threats, perceived or real, natural gas prices in Europe spiked on news of the leaks, with the benchmark Dutch contract jumping almost 20 percent on Tuesday to 208 euros ($199) per megawatt-hour, compared with about €39 a year earlier. Gas prices, which have been volatile since the war began, peaked at nearly €350 in August but had been falling in recent weeks.

“This has all the hallmarks of a ‘burning down the house’ energy warfare strategy,” Helima Croft, head of commodities at RBC Capital Markets, said of the likely attacks. “Russia was never going to let the West have an easy energy detox, but these acts of sabotage portend a new dangerous, asymmetric phase in the Kremlin campaign to raise the economic stakes for its adversaries.”

The 27 European Union member countries agreed in July to cut natural gas use by 15 percent through the spring, and have arranged alternative supplies, allowing them to build up their stockpiles. The governments in Denmark and Germany both said on Tuesday that the leaks would not affect natural gas supplies in their countries.

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