The West Is Inching Closer to More Insanity in the Baltic Sea

In the Baltic Sea – home of the twisted wreckage of the Nord Stream pipelines – another pipeline was recently damaged along with telecommunications cables. Western officials are making escalatory statements and are again floating the idea of closing the “NATO lake” to Russian ships, which would likely be viewed by Moscow as an act of war. Onshore, Finland is rapidly militarizing its border with Russia. And a notable Chinese cargo ship is now at the center of the firestorm.

The Newnew Polar Bear

Over the weekend of October 8th there was an unusual drop in pressure in the Finnish-Estonian Balticconnector gas pipeline. By the morning of October 10th, an investigation had found that the pipeline had ruptured. Telecom cables linking Finland, Estonia and Sweden had also been damaged, as had a Russian telecom cable in the Gulf of Finland.

By October 20th, Finland and Estonia were pointing the finger at the Newnew Polar Bear – a Chinese vessel. The Finnish National Bureau of Investigation produced a large anchor found near the damaged pipeline, which it believes belonged to the 169-meter-long ship and likely broke off as it was dragged across the sea floor. Investigators have not explained a theory for how exactly the anchor damaged telecom cables on opposite sides of the pipeline and broke off at the Balticconector.

I haven’t been able to track down an exact distance between the Balticconnector and the telecom cables, but Finnish telecom operator Elisa told Reuters that the distance between the two was “significant.”

Nonetheless, speculation is that damaging the pipeline and cables would have been hard to do without knowing. According to Insurance Marine News:

It seemed unlikely-to-impossible that the crew could have been unaware of this incident, as the event would have slowed the ship dramatically and involuntarily. If the anchor had fallen accidentally and it had hit the gas line, it could have caused severe damage to the pipe. If the anchor had been stuck to the seabed, it would not have passed unnoticed because the speed would have slowed and the ship would have tilted.

The Finnish daily Helsingin Sanomat wrote on Oct. 23rd that the Newnew Polar Bear stopped in bad weather 1.4 nautical miles from the gas pipeline for about eight minutes before continuing on.

Images of the Newnew missing an anchor were soon circulating:

Newnew Shipping Co. has been silent on the matter. Meanwhile, Finland and Estonia have formally submitted a legal notice to China for cooperation as part of their ongoing investigation. Beijing has promised its full cooperation, although it’s possible China might not be too eager to assist Estonia, which is allowing Taiwan to set up a government office in Tallinn. The Estonian FM recently doubled down on that decision, declaring that the country’s goal is to cooperate “with like-minded partners, mainly our transatlantic allies.”

Accusations have already been flying of a plot by the Russians and Chinese since the Newnew sails under the Hong Kong flag and had a Northern Sea Route sailing permission issued by the General Administration of the Northern Sea Route addressed to Torgmoll, a Russian-registered company with offices in Moscow and Shanghai. While this has been treated by some as some sort of smoking gun, it’s simply because of a joint project of two Chinese companies – the international shipping line Hainan Yangpu Newnew Shipping Co and cargo agent Torgmoll. Russia’s state-owned Rosatom also provides information and navigation support for the newly established container transportation service via the Northern Sea Route between China and Russia.

Sari Arho Havren, an associate fellow at London’s Royal United Services Institute, told RFE/RL the following:

Whether this incident was intentional or not, it’s something that both Russia and China can benefit from. Even if the scale may be small, it once again diverts NATO’s attention and resources away from other global focal points.

Russia has denied any involvement and China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mao Ning recently said this on the issue:

We hope relevant parties will follow the principles of being objective, fair, just and professional and find out what happened soon. China stands ready to provide necessary assistance in accordance with international law.

Interestingly, there is much more significance to the Newnew Polar Bear than just its alleged involvement in the incident with the pipeline and communication cables. From Maritime Executive:

In another demonstration of the efforts to expand shipping along Russia’s Northern Sea Route, the Chinese-owned containership Newnew Polar Bear (15,950 dwt) became the first to reach the Russian port in Kaliningrad after a six-week passage. The governor of the Kaliningrad region Anton Alikhanov hailed the achievement on his Telegram account.

The vessel was acquired earlier this year by a new Chinese shipping company, Hainan Yangpu Newnew Shipping Co., and ushered in the route sailing from St. Petersburg at the beginning of July. She started the return trip from China in late August, reaching Kaliningrad on Tuesday and spending three days on dock. The ship registered in Hong Kong is 554 feet long with a capacity of 1,600 TEU.

She is part of the effort to expand trade between China and Russia and grow traffic along the Northern Sea Route. President Vladimir Putin has ordered the authorities overseeing the route to boost annual shipments to 80 million metric tons in 2024.

“Transport companies plan to make this logistics product permanent. It turns out cheaper and faster than through the Suez Canal,” writes Alikhanov touting the party line on his Telegram account.

So the Newnew was also a symbolic milestone for the increasing Russia-China trade via the North Sea route – part of the Arctic final frontier of the New Cold War where Russia already has an apparent advantage. Moscow says freight turnover in the Arctic Basin rose 4.4 percent in 2022 to 98.5 mln metric tons. From Reuters: 

Russia is sending more crude oil produced in the Arctic region to China and India, and at steeper discounts, after Europe slammed its doors shut on Russian supplies last month, trade sources and data show.

Over many years Russia has built up its fleet of icebreakers, ships and submarines. Moscow has also developed mining and oil well operations along its 15,000 miles of Arctic coastline. The US is trying to play catch up by pouring money into existing bases in Alaska and Greenland and establishing four US military bases on Norwegian soil. But Russian economic activity in the Arctic is only expected to increase in coming years, and Moscow considers it an “area of existential importance: where it can use all components in the defense of its interests, including force.

Much of the oil and gas from the Russian arctic used to go to Europe. It’s now headed to China and India. India got its first shipment of Arctic liquefied gas last year, and the country’s energy companies are looking at investing in Russian projects there.

As Andrew Korybko points out, Finland’s efforts to manufacture crises at its Russia border could be seen as part of the West’s efforts to militarize the Arctic confrontation:

Granted, the “mutually assured destruction” (MAD) between NATO and Russia places very real limits on how much pressure can be exerted along this newfound front, but still opening it might be deemed by the bloc’s decisionmakers to be better than keeping it closed in that scenario. In other words, “where one door closes, another opens”, or to be more direct, the end of NATO’s proxy war on Russia via Ukraine could lead to the opening of a less high-stakes but still destabilizing front in Finland.

This outcome would also serve the supplementary purpose of being exploited by the Mainstream Media as the “publicly plausible” pretext for accelerating the Arctic’s militarization. This “final frontier” of the New Cold War is poised to soon be a theater of competition between the US-led West’s Golden Billion and the Sino-Russo Entente due to the Northern Sea Route’s growing role in facilitating East-West trade. Considering this, hyping up the Finnish front like NATO is already doing “kills two birds with one stone”.

The immediate fallout from the damage to the Balticconnector is minor. According to Naval News, the Finnish gas grid is still stable thanks to a massive US-owned floating LNG facility that was moored last year to replace Russian gas. The rupture of the Balticconnector does mean that Finland cannot send gas to Estonia until repairs are made, which could take a few months. The telecom cables have already been repaired.

Bigger picture, however, it will serve as a useful tool to further militarize the Baltic and Arctic.

Before the investigation into the damage of the pipeline and communications cables even settled on the Newnew Polar Bear, Baltic officials had itchy trigger fingers pointed at Russia. For example, Latvian President Edgars Rinkēvičs said the Baltic Sea should be closed to Russia if it is found Moscow was involved. The statement was part of the growing chorus to turn the Baltic into a new front against Russia.

A Baltic Blockade?

The tale of the Newnew Polar Bear could provide more fuel for western hardliners who keep pushing the blockade gambit. The Financial Times reported on Nov. 14 that the EU was actually considering stopping Russian oil ships to check their papers as part of a desperate attempt to enforce the ill-conceived oil price caps. Under that failed plan oil not sold under the $60-a-barrel limit cannot be covered by western insurance for its sea voyage.

Well, western officials admit that “almost none” of Russian crude exports were sold below that price point in October, and the ships are simply using non-western insurance.

Now, EU officials are saying with a straight face that the reason they must stop ships carrying Russian crude is that non-western insurance policies may not be effective in the event of an oil spill. Anonymous EU officials told the Financial Times that the task would fall to Denmark in the narrow Danish Straits and checks would be conducted under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea laws permitting states to to “institute proceedings, including detention of the vessel” given “clear objective evidence” that the vessel poses a threat of environmental damage.

What of the problems with such a plan? The Financial Times notes:

But officials briefed on the proposal say it relies on the capacity of Denmark’s naval authorities to stop and check the tankers, and raises the question of what Copenhagen would do if a ship refused to stop. “Discussions appear to be centred on making life more complicated for Russia and the buyers of its oil,” said Henning Gloystein at Eurasia Group. “If you can make the bureaucracy and risk associated with trading Russian oil a lot more onerous the expectation is buyers will start to demand larger discounts again for their trouble.”

The fact that Russia would almost certainly see such efforts as an act of war goes unmentioned. Roughly 60 percent of Russia’s total seaborne oil exports pass through the Danish straits on its way to international markets, and Moscow’s updated version of the Naval Doctrine of the Russian Federation lists the Baltic Sea and and the Danish Straits as “important areas,” in which the use of force will be available as a last resort after the other options have been exhausted.

After the FT report based on info from unnamed EU officials, Reuters shot it down with other anonymous EU officials saying that there was no such plan in the European Commission’s proposal for tightening the implementation of a price cap on Russia’s crude oil, noting the following:

Three maritime experts said blocking commercial vessels in the Danish straits would be contrary to fundamental rules of the sea, including the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, which governs marine traffic.

Denmark would only have the right to stop a vessel if it posed an obvious threat, they said.

“Denmark has never done anything like that before. Blocking commercial traffic in the Danish straits would come close to a declaration of war,” said Hans Peter Michaelsen, an independent defense analyst.

It’s possible that disagreement over the ship inspection gambit is one of the reasons behind the delay in the European Commission’s delay on its 12th sanctions package. It’s also possible that the FT report was just another in a long line of trial balloons on the possibility of upping the ante in the Baltic.

Estonia, which has a population smaller than Russia’s armed forces, is making noise about causing problems in the Gulf of Finland with Estonian Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur recently talking about how Helsinki and Tallinn will integrate their coastal missile defense, which he says would allow the countries to close the Gulf of Finland to Russian warships if necessary. Early this year Estonia was also proposing closing the Gulf of Finland to Russia – effectively blockading Saint Petersburg.

The fact that western governments continue to go back to these ideas increases the odds that at some point they’re going to try something along these lines.

They’re already well on their way to implementing The Center for Strategic and International Studies plan for NATO near-term actions in the Baltic:

  • Bring Sweden and Finland into NATO. The ratification of these two nations needs to move forward without delay. Elevating them from strong partners to alliance members changes the calculus of a Baltic conflict significantly. The alliance can immediately leverage these two nations to increase strategic depth.

  • Forward stage capabilities. Mines, anti-submarine capabilities, missile defense, and secure supply and logistics infrastructure should be forward staged across all domains, increasing deterrence.

  • Increase patrol. A whole-of-government approach from each Baltic nation and its allies is needed to ensure that energy, communications, and sea routes remain secure. This includes Baltic Air Policing, readiness to shift the balance of A2/AD, and the monitoring and protection of maritime infrastructure.

  • Strengthen command and control. Existing multi-domain command and control should be tested and ready for use. The need for effective command and control will be swift and will require resilient disaggregated nodes, though an eye should also be kept on future capability.

Taken altogether, it’s clear that despite the waning support for Project Ukraine, there will be no winding down of the confrontation between Europe and Russia, and the Baltic is one potential spot for tensions to rise considerably. The Caucasus and Central Asia are other hot spots, as is the Black Sea where attempts continue to sabotage the TurkStream pipeline that transports gas from Russia to Turkiye and onwards to southeastern Europe.

Upon the announcement that Finland and Sweden would join NATO, former Secretary General of the military bloc Anders Fogh Rasmussen proclaimed it was a strategic victory because “If we wish, we can block all entry and exit to Russia through St. Petersburg”.

The caveat to Rasmussen’s pronouncement is that such an effort could very well lead to open war. Is the West crazy enough to try?

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  1. John

    Is the West is crazy enough to think of blockading the Baltic? as we see the West is crazy enough. Crazy enough to actually do it? Crazy enough to risk war with Russia? Crazy enough…? Unfortunately, the answer is not a firm no.

    I cannot fathom the obsession motivating the leadership of Europe. The politicians in the Baltic states, for example, talk as if they are unaware that Russia could swat them like flies. Do they actually trust that NATO membership guarantees them protection? They should look at the track record of the United States when it come to keeping commitments.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      The Baltic states especially but eastern Europe in general is a giant cargo cult. If they can sacrifice for Biden, he will shower them in America branded, Chinese made goods and turn everything into Hollywood. I still can’t get over how they are going nuts on behalf of Biden.

      They will all be better than Germany soon because they give thanks to DC. The G7 types besides the US see themselves as the capos for the US as the new book “Sub Imperial Power” puts it. Poland might fancy itself in this club along with Finland and Sweden with entities like NATO letting them pretend they have more importance than they really do. It could be Biden’s clear incompetence at play. Any individuals can claim credit because the casual US watcher will assume age explained Biden.

      1. eg

        Their governments are clearly a cargo cult, but is this necessarily true of their populations as a whole? I increasingly wonder to what extent the one is drifting further and further from the other.

        1. DZhMM

          I can’t speak to Latvia or Estonia – but thirty years of efforts against Lithuania by the best propagandists in the world have left their mark on our people.

          My hope is that the mark is not so deep. After the running dogs retire back to their well-earned bungalows in wisconsin, the rest of us will remain the neighbors of Russians and Belarusians. They’ve always been, and surely still remain, relatively decent, reliable folks.

          1. upstater

            Lithuania names buildings, schools and streets after Nazis and they do it with a straight face. I went to their Genocide Museum (since renamed) and the slaughter of 250,000 Jews, disabled, trade unionists and communists in 1941 with active participation of locals was treated almost as a footnote. Denial runs very, very deep.

            My mom left Lithuania as a 13 yo with her mother, brother and sister for Berlin as Volksdeutsche. Obviously middle school and HS in Nazi Germany was quite the indoctrination. It sure left its mark on them all.

            The history of those places, like Ukraine after WW1 is sickening. Today rhymes with then.

            1. Feral Finster

              Hell, Holmes, look at the speech that the speaker of the Canadian Parliament made, introducing SS man Jaroslaw Hunka to an adoring Parliament to receive his two standing ovations. Watch how this creep whitewashed a bonafide unrepentant member of the SS, fighting Canada’s allies on behalf of Nazi Germany, dancing around that little bit in praise of “fighting Russia” and “Ukrainian freedom”.

              Touching, it was. Not to mention, most instructive, although not necessarily in the stirring way that the Speaker had in mind.

        2. Feral Finster

          I know the Polish mentality well. I lived in Poland for some years, have some Polish education and speak Polish, although I have not a drop of Slavic blood in me, AFAIK.

          Too many Poles would gladly slit their own children’s throats if that meant that an America would pat them on the head and call them “good doggie”. That would go double if their children’s deaths somehow would spite Russia.

          1. esmael ostadi

            “Too many Poles would gladly slit their own children’s throats if that meant that an America would pat them on the head and call them “good doggie”. That would go double if their children’s deaths somehow would spite Russia”.

            Great comment regardless of its cynicism but so true. This is how Hollywood brainwashes the world.

        3. Kouros

          There is not much Russophobia in the Romanian population and I have former colleagues that look with glee in their eyes at the time Ukraine will be thoroughly defeated by the Russian forces and US/NATO gets its comuppence. ANd this not for being commies, or loving Putin, but from pragmatic observation on the type of world EU/US wants to bring on populations at large.

        4. Polar Socialist

          One would guess Estonians are so aggravated because their (decompressed) LNG has been coming from Finland via the Balticconnector. Finland actually has two LNG terminals connected to the gas transmission network (and two unconnected terminals distributing LNG by tanker trucks). The flow in Balticconnector has been to south ever since Estonia “diversified energy security” a.k.a. stopped using Russian gas. Now they are totally dependent of the Klaipeda LNG terminal in Lithuania. Which, while big, is now feeding the whole Baltics.

          And frankly, I can’t believe Finland is “manufacturing” any crisis on the border – the current stock of morons couldn’t manufacture a bun fight in a bakery. The developments are more easily explained by Finland implementing the new rules for Russian citizens entering EU, and Russia responding simply by letting migrants pass (after annulling a previous agreement not to do so). Since the brand new government of Finland run it’s campaign on controlling the migration/refugees, it is overreacting in the most stupid and knee-jerking way purely for purposes of the domestic politics. The prime minister already had to reprimand his cabinet for insulting the attorney general who stopped their unconstitutional bill. I mean, they certainly are a bunch of nefarious, right-wing Russophobes, but there really doesn’t seem to be any planning behind their actions whatsoever.

          1. cosmiccretin

            “And frankly, I can’t believe Finland is “manufacturing” any crisis on the border – the current stock of morons couldn’t manufacture a bun fight in a bakery”.

            Heartily seconded.

            Sadly, their immediate predecessors were no less moronic.

            But which European politicos (Hungarian and (?)Serbian excepted) are any better? And let’s not get stuck into the North-American gang of shysters ,,,

    2. ciroc

      I think the Wests are just pretending to be tough guys because they are convinced that Russia does not want a pointless war and will never be provoked.

      1. Feral Finster

        There is a lot of truth to that. Russia has desperately tried to avoid escalation throughout this conflict.
        The problem is that Russian refusal to respond to provocation after provocation has only emboldened the West, and the leaders love to egg each other on.

        The problem is when Russia is left with no choice but to respond, and the West cannot then be seen to back down.

    3. Mikel

      “Crazy enough to risk war with Russia?”

      That’s already happening.
      We’re at war with Russia.
      What people must mean is: “crazy enough to get people killed outside of Ukraine?”

  2. The Rev Kev

    Taking the 20,000 foot view, I think that this is NATO desperately flailing about because they realize that Project Ukraine is about to crash and burn. Probably sooner than later as all those military supplies are going to Israel now instead of the Ukraine. So they are trying to create trouble in any region that has a border near Russia whether it be the Caucus, the Black Sea, the Arctic or the Baltic Sea. It does not matter if it violates international law or whether the mini-nations that say that they are going to show Russia who’s boss even have the wherewithal to challenge a Russian commercial oil tanker much less a Russian warship. Blockading the Baltic is not only illegal under international law but is also considered an act of war. Will the Danes, Finns or Estonians try to land soldiers on the deck of an oil tanker to seize it – only to discover that there is a platoon of Russian Marines waiting for them on deck. While reading this article and these pathetic NATO attempts to create all this trouble because they lost in the Ukraine, I could not help but be reminded of a scene from an old film called “Trading Places” where two corrupt brothers are bankrupted and how they repsonded- (58 secs)

    ‘Turn those machines back on!’

    1. Feral Finster

      The problem is that the various NATO satrapies have convinced themselves that Russian reasonableness is contemptible weakness and that Russia never will respond. If Russia finally does respond, they will not be able to back down.

      The story of the Ukrainian missiles that hit Poland is most instructive. Poland and Ukraine had the whole thing more or less agreed in advance, the missiles were air-to-air missiles modified to hit ground targets, but then that Polish firefighter published photos of the missile wreckage that clearly showed that they were not Russian, The Polish government failed around for a bit until the Americans stepped in and told them both to cool it.

  3. Bill Malcolm

    It seems to me that the Baltic States are cruisin’ for a bruisin’. Lithuania not as much as the neo-nazis of Estonia and Latvia, but they’re stuck there among the howling wolf-packs of their neighbours. Russia supplies some electricity to Estonia, which has been beavering away to get a direct EU connection, due to be completed in 2025. Meanwhile, 70,000 crack (as if) NATO troops, including Americans, in Estonia and Latvia are ready to close the railway line to Kaliningrad oblast from Belorussia. A move along those lines would be a provocation against Russia, making the anchor dragging incident look trivial.

    So of course, in the midst of all this Baltic State screaming about warlike Russia egged on by the US Brains Trust, Finland lost its mind as well. They got into NATO, and who knows if it’s true or not, decided to accuse Russia of sending hundreds of illegal Muslim refugees from the Middle East to seek refuge in Finland. That’s why Finland is closing its Russian border stations, they say.

    And with Denmark proffered up as the Sea Police to check dastardly Russian and Chinese cargo ships both entering and leaving the Baltic Sea, those genius “policymakers” in DC think they’ve got Russia, in particular, snookered. Haw, haw. If Russia gets cheesed off enough to give the stupid North East Europeans a big smack in the chops, the folks in DC can say: “Look, Vlad the Barbarian was indeed going to conquer Europe after Ukraine!! We back the Europeans against the Russian hordes! ‘Course, right at the moment, we’re a little short of weapons to supply our allies.”

    I think it unlikely that if it does indeed come to blows between Russia and the European countries bordering the Baltic Sea, that Russia will treat them lightly. It’ll be shock and awe, and no pulling the jabs as with brotherly/sisterly Ukraine. If these European countries want their cities and weapons factories smashed, feeling the US has their backs, they’re in for a very nasty surprise. Rasmussed of Denmark and the brilliant Stoltenberg of Norway will have a chance to show what Norse warriors can do against the mere Slavs of Russia. War’ll be over in a week with Russia falling apart. Well, that’s what the Yerpeons hope, anyway. Too bad that in the real world, they’re going to get their heads smashed in. And fast.

    1. Kilgore Trout

      If the events you describe do occur, the question becomes what will the US do? In the US, there is no walking back decades of Cold War rhetoric about the evils of Soviet/Russian intent for the clearly brainwashed majority of USians, as public support for the transparently provoked Ukraine war showed. The political pressure on Biden or his successor “to do something” will be enormous. The failure to do something will prompt a political crisis here. Who among us thinks our brain-dead foreign policy and military won’t seriously consider resort to the nuclear option (the only arrow left in our quiver) as the “last, best hope for mankind”?

      1. GM

        Who among us thinks our brain-dead foreign policy and military won’t seriously consider resort to the nuclear option

        Presumably then they are dead themselves.

        The assumption of rationality leads to the conclusion that Russia can annihilate any non-nuclear NATO state and there will be no nuclear response because whoever has nukes values living more than retaliation for someone else’s extinction level event, i.e. NATO protection is a fiction.

        But that is under the assumption of rationality…

        However, the bigger problem so far seems to be that Russia is so afraid of escalation and/or paralyzed by internal contradictions, that it may not even reply with full force if a few small nukes are used against it. Certainly what has been done to it so far (blowing up pipelines, bridges and major dams, attacks on its nuclear forces, assassination attempts on Putin, bombing the Kremlin, etc.) more than warranted a nuclear response, by official Russian doctrine (which lists attacks on Russian nuclear forces as one of the conditions for it, and that already happened on multiple occasions), yet there was never any response whatsoever.

        Which only emboldens and further irrrationalizes the other side…

  4. Boomheist

    This is an excellent point. I would like to add a couple points from a sailor’s perspective, ie as someone who from 2012 to 2016 sailed aboard commercial and military vessels, though not in the seas of Europe or the Arctic. Arguing that this small container ship used one of its anchors to damage a pipeline is highly unrealistic. Yes, the ship could have lost an anchor somehow (in bad weather or if improperly secured in the “up” position) and by an act of chance the sinking anchor might has struck a pipeline below it, but then it would have been found at the pipeline and not a mile and a half away. But you cannot use an anchor and its chain like a grapple, ie tossing it into the water and then drifting across a submerged area unntil the grapple hooks something under the water because anchors are designed to hold a ship in place, being very heavy as are their chains, and are not designed to drag with a drifting ship affected by wind or tide. This is just not a realistic possibility. I spent several yeaqrs in my youth as an offshore lobster fisherman and we used grapples all the time to retrieve lost strings of lobster gear when the buioy lines are damaged in storms. The grapples were four inch pipe filled with concrete with soikes fiur inches long sticking out from the metal pipe, weighing about 100 pounds, and we would toss thsese overboard and then drift across the lost lines (based ion the Loran positions we recorded when setting the gear). We’d do this in waters as deepo as 200 fathoms, that is 1200 feet, much deper than anywhere in the baltic, I believe. We never used the main anchor, ever. Never even considered it, as the whole point of an anchor is to hold the entire ship in place. That picture of the ship showing the missing anchor also shows containers knocked way out of position aft, suggesting very bad weather and weather damage. I bet if you looked at that ship’s voyage tou;d find a big storm just before that anchor was lost, and in a serious storm all kinds of bad stuff can happen, including an anchor letting go and then the drum holding the chain letting go such that the anchor and entire chain are lost overboard, within minutes. So, to me, the idea this chip intentionally used its anchor to damage a pipeline or cables is pretty ridiculous.

    The second point I would make, and maybe this is a question is that the arctic route from China to western Russia requires ships to pass through the Bering Sea and then transit the northern Russian coastline, up to 8 time zones (!!). It seems that these ships then pass the port of Murmansk, way north near Finland, and continue on another 2100 miles more or less around the Scandanavian countries and then back through the Baltic Sea to St Petersburg. I wonder why, for reasons of security and maybe time, Russia doesn’t land in Murmansk instead of St Petersburg, saving those 2100 miles steaming time and landing only 600 mniles away from St Petersburg, and then transiting the oil by pipeline south and further west to Europe or western Russia. Similarly containers could be loaded ion trucks or trains for the same route, saving days of sailing time and, more important, creating a much more secure route not vulnerable to hassles with EU navies in the Denmark Strait or the restricted Baltic Sea.

    I would argue that this entire story sounds and feels like allied propaganda designed to continue the new Cold War and somehow broaden the Ukraine disaster into a cosmic existential battle between Good and Evil…..

      1. Piotr Berman

        Murmansk is at 69 degree north, the port that connects to the canal is in Belomorsk at 64:30 N, ca. 500 km south, and actually a very logical destination for cargoes for Russia, except for limits of the capacity, ca. 9 million tons per year. Belomorsk is on Murmansk-St Petersburg railroad too. Could be good for container traffic from Asia, but not for bulk cargoes like oil, fertilizers etc.

    1. Maxwell Johnston

      Thanks for this comment and its granular detail.

      Re Murmansk: having traveled there a lot back in the 90s, I can say that its civilian port facilities are not as big and modern as those on the Baltic Sea. (The huge military port is technically in Severomorsk, to the NE of Murmansk). But Murmansk is a non-freezing port (thanks to the Gulf Stream) and if things really do ratchet up in the Baltic, then Russia probably will do more or less as you are suggesting. Especially if global warming continues unabated and the northern route is more heavily used. There’s no oil pipeline (yet) connecting Murmansk with St Pete, but a gas pipeline is already in the works:

      In 1992, my boss at the time and I were invited on board one of the huge (and I mean huge) nuclear-powered icebreakers in Murmansk port. My boss jokingly patted me on the back as we boarded and warned me that after this visit’s radiation exposure, I would never be able to have children (he had a dry sense of humor). Glad to report that he was wrong. Russia has several of these monsters:

    2. Polar Socialist

      I bet if you looked at that ship’s voyage tou;d find a big storm just before that anchor was lost…

      It was actually one of the worst storms recorded in the area when the pipeline and the cable was cut. All the passenger ferries stayed in the harbor, and that doesn’t happen often.

      As far as the seas go, Baltic sea is small and shallow, but the storms can be really nasty. Especially the area between Aland, Gotland and Saaremaa – three long runaways for winds and waves meet there. So you can have a strong wind attacking you from the north while 30 foot waves rush on you from the east.

    3. Jams O'Donnell

      Here’s some further info:

      “On 1 December 2022, the President of Russian Federation Vladimir Putin signed the new law pertinent to the internal seas of the Russian Federation, which in practice limits the freedom of navigation and even forbids foreign military and civil ships from entering and seafaring in the Northern Sea route. . . . no foreign military or civil ship nor any other foreign country vessel will be allowed to be present without the prior special permission issued by the Russian Federation. In order that Russia issues an official permit, one needs to submit an official request but there is no guarantee that the permission will be issued within the 90 days. Even the permissions already issued can be revoked at any point. All the foreign ships must navigate in the Russian Arctic region under their own national flag and foreign submarines must navigate on the sea surface only. This literally means the embargo on foreign military presence in the Northern Sea route”

  5. Feral Finster

    TL:DR – stop kidding yourselves. Ignoring red line after Russian red line with impunity has only caused the West to keep doubling down.

  6. Tom Stone

    I do enjoy the press reports about Nordstream being destroyed by “Ukrainian Frogmen”.
    The depth where the pipelines were attacked is 240 Meters, not 240 Feet.
    At 200 Feet a diver will be using Tri Mix and will spend a lot more time decompressing than they will at the bottom, at more than 700 Feet you need a submersible.
    Ideally one with a Waldo and a decompression chamber big enough for at least two fully rigged divers.
    As far as sanity goes, it’s in very short supply amongst Western Elites, and I do mean that literally.
    If they started frying their chicken in Lithium grease it might help…

  7. Jim Fiala

    Western elites, particularly the U.S. variety, are the most dangerous and predatory force on the planet. And, as they have shown with their support of the mass slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, capable of anything.

  8. WillD

    I’d like to see them trying to block the Baltic to Russian shipping. One well aimed shot across the bows of whatever vessel was foolish enough to try to block the Russian ship would probably send them running home in a panic.

    They might have tried it on before the Ukraine conflict, but now that they’ve seen what Russian can do, I don’t think even the stupidest of European politicians will try it on.

    Also, I don’t think NATO wants to test the strength or validity of Article 5, as it is likely that few countries, if any, would rise to the ‘challenge’ of going up against Russia. Once tested, and is less than 100% successful, it becomes meaningless.

    1. ambrit

      Sounds a lot like the fate of Napoleon’s “Grand Army” during his Russian Campaign. France back then had an equivalent to today’s NATO in hand, and still lost.
      Considering that Russia and it’s allies are working the ‘bugs’ out of their drone warfare doctrine in the Ukraine, the outcome of any future war involving Russia is even riskier now than it was just a few years ago.
      As the war in the Ukraine has shown, any army needs trained troops to use those wonder weapons effectively. Russia is training those troops right now.

  9. Paul Art

    Americans do not know war. Vietnam and Korea are distant memories and the loss of the draft has restricted war experience to the cannon fodder who volunteer from the economic wastelands of the south and the poorest towns. Until and unless bombs fall from ‘sea to shining sea’, blasting the smug flag wavers into bits and educating the ‘patriots’ about shell shock and PTSD, the world will not see much of peace. America is like a 3 year old stamping its feet and crying all the time wanting this that and the other. Its long overdue for a thorough spanking. Interesting aside – try googling “Victoria Nuland is a lunatic” and you hardly get any negative articles or press about this deranged monster. Would really be interested in that algorithm which weeds out all negative articles about elites.

  10. Victor Sciamarelli

    It’s not surprising that US confrontations and provocations will increase because the neocons are committed to wrecking Russia’s economy and its sanctions have not worked as planned.
    According to “Russian economy expected to grow despite Ukraine war fallout” from EURONEWS on 9/27/2023, “The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) estimates the Russian economy will see 1.5% growth. A previous forecast suggested it would contract by a similar figure, though the country is proving far more resilient than expected in the face of Western sanctions.”

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