WASHINGTON – Today, Senator Eric Schmitt sent a letter to United States Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines requesting a classified briefing on the Chinese NewNew Polar Bear vessel that may have intentionally severed a critical gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea:
“I have major concerns that the Chinese shipping vessel NewNew Polar Bear dragging its anchor across the Baltic Sea for dozens of miles was done intentionally to afflict the already tenuous energy economy in the Baltic region. We already know the Chinese Communist Party doesn’t play by the rules, and it is not outrageous to suspect this incident was intentional. In the South China Sea, China has a proven track record of using commercial vessels under the guise of civilian control to conduct military maritime operations that achieve strategic objectives. Given the timing in the lead up to winter, the unusual routing of the Chinese vessel, and Finland’s recent accession to NATO, the best course of action is a briefing on the incident so that we can get answers and determine our next steps,” said Senator Eric Schmitt.
- While transiting the Baltic Sea from Baltiysk, Kaliningrad, Russia to Saint Petersburg, Russia, a Hong Kong-flagged vessel, the NewNew Polar Bear, dragged its anchor across the seabed for dozens of miles.
- By dragging its anchor, the vessel’s anchor severed a critical gas pipeline, the Balticconnector, and two telecommunications lines that lay under the floor of the Baltic Sea.
- Finnish police reportedly contacted the ship several times, but the NewNew Polar Bear declined to cooperate and remained in international waters out of Finnish jurisdiction.
- The pipeline diversifies energy sources, reduces the Baltic region’s dependency on Russian natural gas, and enhances the energy security in the region which is already at risk due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine leading to major supply disruptions.