U.S. military official: Jury still out on Nord Stream pipeline 'sabotage'

WASHINGTON, Sept 28 (Reuters) - Despite concerns by U.S. allies that ruptures of the Nord Stream pipelines were deliberate acts, the United States believes it is too soon to conclude there was sabotage, a senior U.S. military official said on Wednesday.

"The jury is still out," the official said, briefing Pentagon reporters on the condition of anonymity. "Many of our partners, I think, have determined or believe it is sabotage. I'm just -- I'm not at the point where I can tell you one way or the other."

Asked whether any U.S. involvement in the ruptures could be ruled out, the U.S. military official said: "We were absolutely not involved."

The Nord Stream pipelines have been flashpoints in an escalating energy war between capitals in Europe and Moscow that has damaged major Western economies and sent gas prices soaring.

As gas spewed out under the Baltic Sea for a third day after first being detected, it remained far from clear who might be responsible for any sabotage of the pipelines that Russia and European partners spent billions of dollars building. read more

The White House was cautious when asked about potential retaliation but acknowledged the concerns stemming from any attack on critical infrastructure of NATO allies.

"I don't want to get ahead of the investigation," said White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre.

U.S. OFFERS ASSISTANCE

Asked whether the Pentagon, perhaps utilizing submarine or other under-sea military capabilities, was assisting with the investigation, the U.S. military official said Washington had not been asked to provide that support.

"We're like a number of other countries out there with capability that could certainly assist, but we haven't been asked to do so," the official said. "And again, there are a lot of countries out there that have underwater capability."

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin also offered support in a call with his Danish counterpart on Wednesday, a senior U.S. defense official said, also speaking on condition of anonymity.

Navy Captain Tamara Lawrence, a spokesperson for U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, said the U.S. Navy stood ready to provide support and assistance "in close coordination with our allies and partners, if needed."

The European Union on Wednesday promised a "robust" response to any intentional disruption of its energy infrastructure after saying it suspected sabotage was behind the gas leaks discovered this week on subsea Russian pipelines to Europe.

Russia reduced gas supplies to Europe via Nord Stream 1 before suspending flows altogether in August, blaming Western sanctions for causing technical difficulties. European politicians say that was a pretext to stop supplying gas.

The new Nord Stream 2 pipeline had yet to enter commercial operations. The plan to use it to supply gas was scrapped by Germany days before Russia began what it calls a "special military operation" in Ukraine in late February.

Russia's embassy in Denmark said any sabotage on Nord Stream's pipelines was an attack on both Russia's and Europe's energy security.

Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Leslie Adler and Alistair Bell

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