JCU Welcomes Christian Bueger for a Talk on the Nord Stream Sabotage

The JCU Political Science and International Affairs department and the Guarini Institute for Public Affairs hosted the lecture “Beyond Invisibility: Protecting Maritime Infrastructures After the Nord Stream Sabotage” with Christian Bueger on November 14, 2022. Bueger is Professor of International Relations at the University of Copenhagen, honorary professor at the University of Seychelles, and one of the directors of the SafeSeas network for maritime security. He specializes in maritime security and ocean governance and has over 160 publications related to International Relations.

Christian Bueger

Christian Bueger

Bueger explained the importance that maritime infrastructure has on daily life. The world’s economy is heavily dependent on subsea cables and pipelines. Millions of kilometers of cables and pipes lie on the ocean floor, and 95% of our data travels through subsea cables. Energy markets depend on undersea pipelines and cables to transfer oil, gas, and electricity.

Yet as Bueger described, there are several vulnerabilities within maritime infrastructure that can disrupt the flow of operations. He gave the example of the Nord Stream sabotage in September 2022, when two subsea pipelines connecting Russia to Germany exploded in the Danish and Swedish Exclusive Economic Zone. The Nord Stream Sabotage revealed how vulnerable the undersea domain is, and how it often raises intricate legal challenges on rights and responsibilities.

“For the first time in European history post World War II, underwater infrastructure was attacked. It’s clear that this incident was not an accident, but sabotage. It required explosives and calculations,” said Bueger. He characterized the Nord Stream sabotage as a “grey zone” attack due to the elusive circumstances surrounding the disaster. The attack raises the question who and how the international maritime community should protect under water infrastructure.

He discussed how countries depend greatly on maritime infrastructure, leaving them especially susceptible to attacks. Islands in Europe like Sicily or Malta would not be able to experience sabotage without suffering great repercussions. For this reason, Bueger said international relations between countries should include discussions about maritime security. He argued that Europe cannot be disjointed in political discussions protecting infrastructure at sea.

Bueger said that research conducted by numerous academics has identified the possibility of undersea cable attacks before the Nord Stream Sabotage, but little action has been taken. He believes that governments, the European Union, NATO and other maritime organizations must unite to emphasize maritime security to prevent further destruction at sea. He highlighted the importance of partnerships and close coordination with the maritime industries.

“Infrastructures are the foundation of modern life. The global economy’s super infrastructure lies underwater, but we don’t see it. It’s a structure of international relations that’s important to study,” said Bueger.