• The gas pipelines linking Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea were affected by spectacular leaks preceded by underwater explosions.

  • Many international players, starting with Ukraine, accuse Moscow, which however denies any involvement, against a backdrop of fears of an unprecedented energy crisis in the months to come.

  • 20 Minutes

    returns for you to the consequences of this sabotage and its symbolic significance, between greenhouse gas emissions, the coming recession and hidden messages.

And it goes boom, boom, boom… Underwater explosions have caused three spectacular gas leaks in the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines. These energy conveyors that connect Russia to Germany are the subject of a crucial showdown since the start of the invasion in Ukraine.

Huge boils - up to a kilometer in diameter - are visible off the Danish island of Bornholm.

But what consequences will these leaks have?

Will the European economy be shaken?

The environment definitely marked?

20 minutes

examines for you the implications of these striking gas leaks in the arms of the Baltic Sea.

"It's quite catastrophic for the climate"

Nord Stream 2 suffered a sharp drop in pressure on Monday, followed a few hours later by Nord Stream 1, which follows the route under the Baltic.

According to Copenhagen, the leaks should last “at least a week”, until all the gas has left the two structures.

As the gas spills into the heart of the sea, the question of environmental repercussions is crucial.

To measure them, it is first necessary "to estimate the quantity of gas that remained in the gas pipelines, which is difficult", underlines François Gemenne, specialist in questions of environmental geopolitics, who adds however that "the images show that there was plenty of gas left.

On the surrounding fauna and flora, the effects should remain limited.

But "it's quite catastrophic for the climate", says the director of the Hugo Observatory dedicated to environmental migrations at the University of Liège, recalling that "methane is a toxic gas for the environment twenty times more powerful than carbon dioxide ".

However, these large pipes immersed in the Baltic Sea contain natural gas, 90% composed of methane, so these discharges will contribute to the warming of our planet.

Nord Stream 2, the undersea gas pipeline that was to connect Germany to Russia, was never put into operation because of the war in Ukraine.

"A priori, Nord Stream 2 rather leaks nitrogen, which is less dangerous for the climate than methane but we do not know the consequences on the ocean",

The coming winter will be "difficult"

If we zoom in on the blue planet, these spectacular leaks will also have repercussions on the scale of the European Union.

Europe is already struggling to compensate for the reductions in gas supply from Russia.

Prior to the invasion, Moscow supplied 45% of EU gas imports.

Before these underwater explosions, "the deliveries of Russian gas continued even if they were reduced and of the order of 5 to 10%", recalls François Gemenne.

The full cut imposed by these massive leaks was, however, expected.

"It's not a blow like it could have been a year ago, today deliveries are very low and the EU knows that Russia is no longer a reliable gas supplier", decrypts Agathe Demarais, director of global forecasts at the Economist Intelligence Unit.

However, she admits that the coming winter will be “difficult”.

Even if the gas reserves are well filled in France, the government repeats it: it will be necessary to save energy and power cuts could occur.

Especially since for our nuclear fleet, "it's very bad timing", underlines Agathe Demarais, author of


, on the side effects of US sanctions.

Some 25 reactors out of 56 are unavailable due to maintenance operations or corrosion problems.

To compensate for the lack of gas, which is also used to create electricity in normal times, EDF has promised the gradual restart of nuclear power plants unavailable by February.

Many European countries are also turning to coal, despite its disastrous carbon footprint.

A situation that underwater gas leaks are not likely to fix.

The recession in progress

On the energy front, Europe should withstand the shock.

Economically, however, it is on the verge of a recession.

The next few years promise to be particularly brutal for the European Union, which is barely recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic which had already plunged the continent into recession.

Inflation is likely to continue to swell, weakening businesses and households.

“It is the double shock with the pandemic followed by the war in Ukraine”, underlines Agathe Demarais who predicts “two to three years of economic pain”.

The price of raw materials has increased significantly, as have electricity bills and "companies, in particular foundries, have already closed".

The Economist Intelligence Unit, which she heads, predicts a recession for France of 0.3%.

However, France is not in as bad a position as its neighbors, which are posting growth forecasts of -1% for Germany, -1.3% for Italy and -0.9% for the United Kingdom. .

Paris remains better off on the inflation side, in particular thanks to its lower dependence on Russian energies.

France shows the weakest price increase in the euro zone.

Something to reassure when you put on an extra sweater to avoid an exorbitant bill.

A “threat against the European Union”

More than a desire to harm the energy or even economic market of the European Union, this sabotage could actually act as a warning.

The explosions required more than 100 kg of explosives according to Swedish experts.

Moscow is singled out but denies any involvement.

However, the timing questions.

On Tuesday, Poland inaugurated a new gas pipeline with Norway.

Baltic Pipe will transport 10 billion cubic meters of gas each year to Poland, allowing the EU to move away from its energy dependence on Russia.

For Agathe Demarais, it is a "threat against the European Union: "We will not hesitate to attack your infrastructure."

Especially since this new pipeline is not the only target that nestles in the heart of the Baltic Sea that several EU countries share with Russia.

The telecommunications cables are also underwater and if they were to be cut, it would be “chaos” in Europe, underlines Agathe Demarais, who notices an “extension of the field of war”.

Between the announcement of the partial mobilization, the nuclear threats, the referendums in the occupied regions of Ukraine and this sabotage, "we have a succession of very worrying signals", she notes.

“Putin suffered defeats in Ukraine but instead of backpedaling he is heading for an escalation.



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  • War in Ukraine