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NATO officials identify Nord Stream leaks as sabotage

Leaks from the Nord Stream pipeline have been labeled as "sabotage" amid Europe's ongoing tensions with Russia due to its invasion of Ukraine.

Video Transcript

SEANA SMITH: NATO officially blaming sabotage for the series of leaks in the Nord Stream pipelines that carry natural gas from Russia to Germany. Many European leaders are pointing the finger at Russia, which denies that it was involved. Yahoo Finance senior columnist Rick Newman is here. And Rick, clearly huge implications. And once again, the tensions between Russia and the West continuing to rise.

RICK NEWMAN: Right, so let's lay out what seems to have happened here. So this does seem to be an attack on these pipelines. Some kinds of sabotage, explosions have been reported. Now nobody knows who does it, but who would do such a thing like this? I mean, scratch your head a little bit and figure out, is this just Russia trying to up the ante in what is clearly an energy war between Russia and the Western world, including mostly Europe, to accompany the military war that's happening in Ukraine.

So if so, this is arguably a Russian attack on European infrastructure, critical infrastructure. I mean, a gas pipeline, energy pipelines are critical infrastructure, which means that NATO may have to respond to this.

So, potentially, without being alarmist about it, we are looking at NATO making some kind of pointed response, other than a strongly worded statement, to Russia for an attack on what is basically European infrastructure. Now, I should point out this was in international waters, just outside of Danish territorial waters, but it did carry gas to Germany. So I mean, I think Germany can rightly say this is critical infrastructure to us.

DAVE BRIGGS: Evidence not easy to attain in these circumstances, but they had said prior they would not resume flows unless they received sanctions relief. So, presumably, this is reaction to that. There was some optimism that maybe the war in Ukraine would be tamping down. Is there any optimism now?

RICK NEWMAN: I'm not optimistic about that. So let's look at what has happened recently. First of all, Putin mobilizing what could be hundreds of thousands of new soldiers for the war. That actually extends his ability to prosecute this war. I mean, everything you see on the internet, I mean, there are a lot of memes and jokes about how badly prepared these soldiers are going to be, practically untrained when they get to the front. They're being issued 50 or 70-year-old weapons in some instances.

But this is a lot of people. And it's going to allow Putin to keep reinforcing those units in Ukraine and drag this war on for longer. And that is what he wants to do. He wants-- he thinks time is on his side because he thinks the United States and Europe and the other nations allied with Ukraine are just going to lose interest over time. They're going to get tired of sending taxpayer dollars, weapons bought with taxpayer dollars, and everything else to Ukraine. So he's gambling that everybody on Ukraine's side just gets fed up with this before he does.

RACHELLE AKUFFO: And even when it comes to the finger pointing of a Nord Stream, you had Russia, according to Reuters, calling this state sponsored terrorism, pointing the finger at-- and we're not exactly sure who. And then of course, you have these annexations that are supposed to be being announced by Putin on Friday. What does this mean in terms of how NATO can respond, as Russia continues to press forward?

RICK NEWMAN: These escalations are very important because they will give Putin and Russia a premise for saying, look, these parts of Ukraine are now part of Russia. And any attack on Russian troops inside these new territories of Ukraine that we say now belong to Russia, which they don't-- let's be clear about that. But then Putin could say, we consider this an attack on Russia itself.

So, if you think about it, this gives him a pretext. It's pretty much guaranteed, for example, that Western American rockets, the so-called HIMARS system, the long range rockets, will be hitting Russian positions inside these annexed territories. So Putin could say American weapons hitting Russian territory, this is a pretext for, among other things, possible use of a nuclear weapon by Putin.

So, most analysts still think it's very unlikely that Putin would use a nuclear weapon because he would have a lot to lose and not much to gain by doing that. But this war is getting worse. And in certain ways, the escalation is suggesting this is going to go on well into 2023, possibly into 2024. And it could be longer than that.

DAVE BRIGGS: Thankfully, the pushback against Putin within Russia is also growing louder. Senior columnist Rick Newman, good to see you, sir.

RICK NEWMAN: Thanks, guys.

DAVE BRIGGS: Thank you.