Power Projection by Pipeline: Russia, Sweden, and the Hybrid Threat from the Nord Stream Project, 2005-2009

By late 2005, Sweden suddenly faced what it perceived as a hard security threat, in the unexpected form of a Russian pipeline project across the Baltic Sea which, it was suspected, could be used as a sensor platform for Russian military intelligence.
The pipeline would be ideally located for use as a tripwire sensor chain through which Russia could monitor all movements of aircraft, surface vessels, and submarines across the Baltic. However, the pipeline project was a commercial venture, which could not be opposed through regular security strategies due to international law. For this reason, the Ministry of Defence commissioned a study of the implications of the project and an inter-ministerial working group from the ministries for foreign affairs, industry (enterprise), defence, agriculture, and the environment was put together to address the threat and assess counterstrategies to contain it.
When faced with Swedish opposition, Russia responded with its own multidimensional counter-counterstrategy, which for reasons which will be explained included several major EU member states. In effect, Russia used hybrid means to influence the media, society, and ministries of neighbouring states to gain permission for a strategic industrial infrastructure project. There were elements of what used to be known as an influence campaign in these efforts, but a broad spectrum of actors was used to achieve the objective of building the pipeline, which corresponded to Russia’s, not Sweden’s, strategic interests. …

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