Finnish experts: Russia may have had several motives for damaging pipeline

Balticconnector Source: Balticconnector

According to Finnish experts, while Russia has not definitely been confirmed as being behind the damage caused to the Balticconnector pipeline between Finland and Estonia, Moscow may have had several motives for doing.

Although the investigation is still ongoing, there are indications that Russia may have been behind the damage caused to the Balticconnector pipeline. Finland's Helsingin Sanomat (HS) newspaper asked experts what Russia's aims might have been.

"Russia would have a lot to gain from this," said Professor Veli-Pekka Tynkkynen of the University of Helsinki. Tynkkynen's work focuses on Russia's energy and natural resource policies.

"Russia's main export is not raw materials, but fear. This fits in with Russia's strategy - to create the fear that any kind of infrastructure can be targeted. If there is no certainty about the perpetrator, then that even increases the fear factor in people's minds," Tynkkynen said, providing one possible explanation for the incident.

According to Tynkkynen, the reaction of the Finnish authorities has so far been the right one.

"Although it has not been explicitly said that it is Russia, that has come out, reading between the lines. However, Finland is a state governed by the rule of law, and we proceed on the basis that the evidence has to be there first. Only then will the names of the guilty parties be announced," said Tynkkynen.

If Russia's guilt is confirmed, Tynkkynen said, decisive action should be taken.

Jukka Savolainen, an expert on hybrid threats at the European Center of Excellence (CoE), stressed that at the moment, it remains as only speculation, as Russia's guilt has not yet been conclusively proven.

According to Savolainen, there are indications that other unusual events, such as bomb threats, have also occurred in the surrounding area, in the Baltic states for instance.

"Could it be that there is a campaign going on in a number of places to divert attention from [what is happening] in Ukraine?" said Savolainen.

Another possible motive for sabotaging the pipeline, according to Savolainen, could be an attempt to create an energy crisis for the coming winter. Savolainen pointed out that damage to the Balticconnector pipeline, however, would not lead to a crisis in Finland or Estonia, though it may have an impact on gas prices.

A gas shortage would only occur if LNG storage were disrupted, however, Finland is also prepared for such an eventuality, Savolainen said.

Markku Kangaspuro, director of the Aleksanteri Institute at the University of Helsinki, suggests that the primary benefit from the incident would be the undermining of Finland's sense of security.

"It is intended to show that Finland's accession to NATO does not strengthen its security but creates insecurity. Russia could wave its military flag and show itself to be an influential power in the Baltic Sea region. So if you don't cooperate with it, things will get even more complicated," Kangaspuro said, as a way of explaining Russia's possible logic.

However, Kangaspuro also thinks that an operation like this could end up having the opposite effect to the one Russia is aiming for.

"What will work against Russia is, that while the sense of insecurity may be growing, it will also reinforce the tougher stances of citizens and politicians towards Russia in the whole Baltic Sea region. This increases Russia's isolation," Kangaspuro said.

Tynkkynen and Savolainen also speculated that the damage to the pipeline may be linked to Finland's accession to NATO.

Tynkkynen said that this could be a test of both Finland's and NATO's reactions. Savolainen, on the other hand, sees a desire to send a message to Finland about what NATO membership entails, as a possible motive for the incident.


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Editor: Michael Cole

Source: HS

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