Swedish security concern over Russian pipeline
Published: 15 Nov 06 12:16 CET
Plans by Russian gas giant Gazprom to build a pipeline across the Baltic Sea are causing worry across the political spectrum in Sweden, with leaders concerned that the pipeline infrastructure could be used as a platform for Russian intelligence.
The Russo-German company Nord Stream on Tuesday presented information about the 1,200 kilometre pipeline between Vyborg in Russia and Greifswald in Germany. The pipeline, while not entering Swedish territorial waters, will cross Sweden's economic zone in the Baltic.
Sweden's defence minister Mikael Odenberg said that the pipleline "represents the advancement of vital Russian interests in the Baltic Sea." Odenberg said that a pipeline "can also be an intelligence platform. That has an effect."
Odenberg said that he has spoken to his German counterpart about the issue. The German government is providing credit guarantees to German companies Eon and BASF to help them carry out the €5.5 billion project together with Gazprom.
The Social Democrats' defence spokeswoman Ulrica Messing made similar noises to Odenberg in an article in Dagens Nyheter.
"Russia already uses similar facilities to gain intelligence about other countries, and with a gas pipeline in the Swedish economic zone it will have the chance to access Swedish military secrets," she wrote.
The Social Democrats' foreign affairs spokesman Urban Ahlin said that the spectacle of two giants like Russia and Germany signing a bilateral agreement, without reference to smaller countries, brought a "musty smell of times past".
Prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt took a more cautious approach to the issue.
"I think that we should be very strict here, and say that we should measure this against relevant international conventions and laws. I have said in other contexts that we see the environmental tests as the most important things. One can, of course, discuss it from other perspectives," he said.
Bo Hult at the Swedish National Defence College, said a continuous Russian naval presence would cause concern in Sweden:
"Naval movements will be able to be monitored," he told The Local.
But Hult warned against overstating the risks.
"This debate has perhaps got a bit out of hand. There's a certain element of panic about it."
He said that one reason that reactions had been so strong was "surprise that the Russians and the Germans had stitched this up." He said that the episode was a reminder that the countries of the region should think about forming a common monitoring system for the Baltic Sea.
Nord Stream's information will now be examined by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, which will then forward its views to Finland, Russia, Denmark and Germany.
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