NATO increases Baltic Sea patrols after subsea infrastructure damage

German Navy mine-hunter the Fulda in Tallinn Bay, Monday, February 14 2022.
German Navy mine-hunter the Fulda in Tallinn Bay, Monday, February 14 2022. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Minehunters, maritime patrol aircraft, and drones are being sent to the Baltic Sea as NATO steps up its patrols after damage to two undersea data cables and a gas pipeline was reported over the last week.

The increased measures include additional surveillance and reconnaissance flights, including with maritime patrol aircraft, NATO AWACS planes, and drones, a press release said.

Four NATO minehunters are also being dispatched to the area.

"We continue to monitor the situation closely, and we remain in close contact with our Allies Estonia and Finland, and our partner Sweden," said acting NATO spokesperson Dylan White.

"NATO will continue to adapt its maritime posture in the Baltic Sea and will take all necessary steps to keep Allies safe."

NATO's decision to increase patrols on the Baltic Sea and in the regional air space shows that the Allies are vigilant and ready for action, if needed, said Minister of Defence Hanno Pevkur (Reform).

Hanno Pevkur. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

"The decision does not mean that there is an increased military threat. Instead, it shows that relations between Allies are strong and NATO as a whole sees the protection of critical infrastructure as an important issue," he said in a statement.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Margus Tsahkna (Eesti 200) said he "welcomed" NATO's decision.

"Today we received confirmation that the damage to the undersea infrastructure between Estonia and Finland was probably man-made, and an investigation is underway to determine the cause of damage to the communications cable between Estonia and Sweden. The continuity of Estonia's critical connections is guaranteed and it is not under threat," he said.

Estonia, Finland, and Sweden are cooperating closely on the investigations and keeping Allies updated, the minister said.

The Alliance has increased its presence in the region since the Nord Stream two gas pipeline between Russia and Germany was sabotaged in September 2022.

Earlier this year, NATO created an undersea infrastructure coordination cell to deepen ties between governments, military, industry actors and NATO. It has since established the NATO Maritime Centre for the Security of Critical Undersea Infrastructure within NATO's Maritime Command.

Damage has been reported to the Balticconnector gas pipeline and to Arelion's EE-S1 and Elisa's undersea data cables. Source: ERR News/ Datawrapper/ TeleGeography

On October 8, the 77-km Balticconnector gas pipeline between Finland and Estonia experienced a sudden drop in pressure, which experts believe could only be attributed to a leak. Finnish sources pointed the finger at Russia.

A damaged data cable belonging to the Finnish telecommunications company Elisa was also found during investigations.

The two incidents are being investigated as sabotage although it is not known if they are connected.

Earlier this week, Stockholm reported that a fault was discovered on a cable between Estonia and Sweden. The Estonian Ministry of Economic Affairs said preliminary information suggests it is not connected to the other two incidents.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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