In Washington, Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken declined to speculate about what had caused the leaks, but pledged that the United States would support Europe in securing its energy supply.
“This just drives home the importance of our efforts to work together to get alternative gas supplies to Europe and to support efforts to reduce gas consumption and to accelerate true energy independence by moving to a clean energy economy,” Ms. Jean-Pierre said.
Before Moscow sent troops into Ukraine in February, Russia provided more than half of all natural gas imported by Germany and more than 40 percent used across the European Union, which relied heavily on it to heat homes, generate electricity and run factories. Days before the war began, Germany refused to let the just-completed Nord Stream 2 begin pumping gas from Siberia, and the European Union joined the United States in imposing stiff economic sanctions on Russia.
Moscow then began diminishing its supplies through existing lines, first choking off flows through overland pipelines, as President Vladimir V. Putin appeared to calculate that Russia could absorb the resulting economic pain longer than Europe could. Over the summer, Nord Stream 1 operated at a fraction of its capacity, and the flow halted in late August. The escalation has sent the price of gas soaring and forced leaders to call on businesses and citizens to reduce consumption or face rationing in the winter.
Reflecting the market’s sensitivity to threats, perceived or real, natural gas prices in Europe spiked on news of the leaks, with the benchmark Dutch contract jumping almost 20 percent on Tuesday to 208 euros ($199) per megawatt-hour, compared with about €39 a year earlier. Gas prices, which have been volatile since the war began, peaked at nearly €350 in August but had been falling in recent weeks.
“This has all the hallmarks of a ‘burning down the house’ energy warfare strategy,” Helima Croft, head of commodities at RBC Capital Markets, said of the likely attacks. “Russia was never going to let the West have an easy energy detox, but these acts of sabotage portend a new dangerous, asymmetric phase in the Kremlin campaign to raise the economic stakes for its adversaries.”