Norway and Germany seek Nato-led cooperation for key undersea structures

Germany and Norway want to start a NATO-led alliance to protect critical underwater infrastructure, their leaders said on Wednesday, weeks after explosions hit two key gas pipelines in the fallout from the war in Ukraine.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store (L) and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz speak during a debate during the 21st Congress on European Security and Defence in Berlin, on November 30th, 2022. Photo by John Macdougall / AFP
Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store (L) and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz speak during a debate during the 21st Congress on European Security and Defence in Berlin, on November 30th, 2022. Photo by John Macdougall / AFP

 “We are in the process of asking the NATO Secretary General to set up a coordination office for the protection of underwater infrastructure,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told a press conference in Berlin.

“We take the protection of our critical infrastructure very seriously and nobody should believe that attacks will remain without consequences,” he said.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store said the alliance would be “an informal initiative to exchange between civilian and also military actors” with NATO providing “a centre, a coordination point”.

Underwater cables and pipelines were “arteries of the modern economy” and it was necessary to create “a coordinated joint effort to ensure security for this infrastructure”, he said.

Scholz said he and Store would propose the plan to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who is due in Berlin for a security conference. The Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines off the Danish island of Bornholm were targeted by two huge explosions at the end of September.

The pipelines, which connect Russia to Germany, had been at the centre of geopolitical tensions as Moscow cut gas supplies to Europe in suspected
retaliation to Western sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine.

Although they were not in operation when the leaks occurred, they both still contained gas which spewed up through the water and into the atmosphere.

Russia and Western countries, particularly the United States, have traded bitter barbs over who is responsible for the blasts.

Several European countries have since taken steps to increase security around critical infrastructure. 

The G7 interior ministers warned earlier this month at a meeting in Germany that the Nord Stream explosions had highlighted “the need to better protect our critical infrastructure”.

Norway has become Europe’s main gas supplier in the wake of the war in Ukraine, taking the place of Russia.

The Scandinavian country has a vast network of pipelines, stretching for almost 9,000 kilometres, linking it to the continent, which experts have said are at risk of sabotage.

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Germany snapping up Indian fuels amid Russia sanctions

German imports of refined oil products from India soared in the first seven months of the year, official data showed Tuesday, much of which was likely made using crude oil from sanctions-hit Russia.

Germany snapping up Indian fuels amid Russia sanctions

Germany bought 451 million euros’ ($480 million) worth of Indian petroleum products between January and July.

That was an increase of more than 1,100 percent on the €37 million spent over the same period a year earlier, national statistics agency Destatis said.

The 12-fold jump comes after India became a leading buyer of Russian crude in the wake of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

India’s fuel exports to Germany were “mainly gas oils used for the production of diesel or heating oil”, statistics agency Destatis said.

Destatis noted that these products were derived from crude oil and that according to the UN Comtrade database, “India has been importing large quantities of crude oil from Russia” since the start of the war.

Western countries have hit Russia with a slew of sanctions over the war, including a European Union embargo on seaborne oil deliveries from Russia.

The EU — along with its G7 partners — also agreed to a price cap of $60 per barrel for Russian crude exported to other parts of the world.

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The measure has allowed India to snap up discounted crude from Russia before refining it and selling it to European customers.

While these sales are legal, critics say they amount to a backdoor route for Russian oil and undermine the impact of the sanctions, which are aimed at stripping Moscow of revenues to fund its war effort.

The EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell acknowledged “the dilemma” in a blog post in May.

“We in the EU don’t buy Russian oil, but we buy the diesel obtained by refining this Russian oil somewhere else. This has the effect of circumventing our sanctions,” he wrote.

“All this does also raise moral issues,” he added.