CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTUREThe Balticconnector Incident: Hybrid Attacks and Critical Infrastructure Protection

By Swasti Rao

Published 19 February 2024

There is the recognition that Europe needs to invest more resources to proactively prevent attacks such on those related to the Nord Streams in 2022 and Balticconnector in 2023. The European Union and individual EU countries are investing in new military measures as well as enacting new regulations aimed at protecting critical infrastructure.

The vulnerability of Europe’s critical infrastructure was highlighted when the Balticconnector pipeline, a subsea gas pipeline connecting Finland and Estonia under the Baltic Sea, was allegedly attacked on the night of 7/8 October 2023. The gas pipeline was damaged in Finland’s economic waters, and a related communications cable disruption took place in Estonia’s exclusive economic zone. This was the second major attack on Europe’s critical infrastructure after the infamous attacks on Nord Streams in September 2022. Reports note that the pipeline is not going to be operational until April 2024.1 Investigations by Finnish authorities did not conclusively establish the motive of the attack against either a state or a non-state actor.

Immediately after the accident, there was a surge in European wholesale natural gas prices, with the benchmark Dutch TTF recording a 15–20 per cent surge in prices.2 The damage to Balticconnector though did not bring a dramatic impact on either Finland or Estonia’s gas supply. After Russia launched its Special Military Operation in Ukraine in February 2022, Finland had stopped importing pipeline gas from Russia with the focus turning to import destinations such as the US.3 After the damage to the Balticconnector, Finland now imports liquefied natural gas (LNG) from new terminals at Inkoo and Hamina.4

Estonia, on the other hand, can receive gas via Latvia, which is connected to the wider European gas pipeline system and home to the region’s gas storage site Incukalns, which is currently 95 per cent full, storing 21.48 terawatt hours (TWh). Estonia also has access to LNG via the floating Klaipeda terminal in Lithuania.5 The majority of LNG cargoes arriving at Klaipeda and Inkoo come from the United States, with Norway being the second largest source.6 Both Gasgrid and Elering confirmed that gas supplies from other sources would be able to cover demand over the winter of 2023–2024.7 Even if the Balticconnector pipeline is not repaired through the winter,  it would not impact either Finland or Estonia.