Nord Stream Blast: Why the West Still Can't Name the Culprit
06:38 GMT 26.09.2023 (Updated: 17:20 GMT 26.09.2023)
Exactly a year ago three out of four Nord Stream pipelines running from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea to provide Western Europe with natural gas were destroyed. Western investigators have so far failed to find the saboteurs behind the blast.
Gas leaks from the Nord Stream pipeline system were detected on 26 September 2022, with the EU leadership admitting that this could be the result of a "deliberate attack".
Two days later, on 28 September, the Kremlin announced that Russia was ready to consider applications from EU countries for a joint investigation into the Nord Stream incident. However, not only did the West snub Moscow's request but also blamed Russia for destroying its own pipelines. Later, European and American officials backtracked on their accusations but fell short of naming a potential perpetrator.
On 12 October 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin called the incident "an act of international terrorism"
. Meanwhile, as gas prices soared and US energy producers secured lucrative liquefied natural gas (LNG) contracts with European countries, it became clear that Washington had been the major beneficiary
from the Nord Stream destruction. Furthermore, the US leadership had previously issued several threats that it would destroy the pipelines.
"We know that the United States President Joe Biden, threatened openly that he would stop Nord Stream 2 if the Russians were to militarily intervene in Ukraine," Philip Giraldi, former CIA station chief and now an executive director of the Council for the National Interest, told Sputnik. "That was repeated by Victoria Nuland, who was Number Three at the State Department. She said basically the same thing. So we had the President and a senior official both saying that they would stop the pipeline if this were to happen. So we have a statement coming from the government itself saying it would do this."
"And then I would say on top of that, the United States - given its military capabilities - had the capability to do this. They sent divers down to attach explosives and to arrange for a drone satellite that would ignite the charges and blow up the pipelines. It had the capability to do it. And it also had the motive, which was basically to weaken Russia's ability to use its energy resources to affect politics in Europe. So this is what it was all about," Giraldi continued.
On 8 February 2023, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh dropped a bombshell, detailing an apparent plot by Team Biden and the US intelligence community to blast the Nord Stream pipelines with the help of Norwegian operatives.
Reflecting on Hersh's version, Giraldi said that he feels that Hersh's narrative is "correct in every detail."
"And I can confirm to you that Sy Hersh, whom I know somewhat, has excellent sources inside CIA and inside the Pentagon. So what he's telling us comes straight from people who know about it," the CIA veteran said.
Blame Game Time: The Andromeda Yarn
On 7 March, the US and German mainstream sources published two separate articles claiming that international investigators had managed to trace the 26 September 2022 sabotage attack to a "pro-Ukrainian" group operating from the Andromeda, a 15-meter chartered yacht. The story immediately prompted a lot of controversy.
German media, for example, asked how a 15-meter chartered yacht could carry the 1,500-2,000 kilograms of explosives needed to destroy the pipelines, adding that the Andromeda does not have a crane to hoist such quantities safely into the water. It was also unclear how the group of volunteers managed to transport that amount of explosives across Europe.
Another problem, cited by the press, was that at the site of the explosion, the depth of the Baltic Sea is about 80 meters, requiring special diving equipment which the private vessel lacked. On top of this, the gang of saboteurs returned the yacht in bad condition and even left a couple of fake passports on board which made the story even fishier.
Hersh ridiculed the mainstream media yarn while discussing it with an anonymous CIA operative familiar with the issue. According to Hersh, it's not just a "bad" media story but a deliberate "parody" fed by the CIA to the US and German media.
"In the world of professional analysts and operators, everyone will universally and correctly conclude from your story that the devilish CIA concocted a counter-op that is on its face so ridiculous and childish that the real purpose was to reinforce the truth," the investigative journalist wrote on 5 April.
The most recent Western media stories alleging Ukraine's involvement don't hold water, either, according to Giraldi:
"Look, when you're doing things in the intelligence world, you look for corroborative details - details that tell you that this story is coming from a good source or that it is fundamentally correct. And I saw none of that in this story. There have been a number of stories, of course, about people from Ukraine having done this, or people even from Germany renting boats and going over there, and they didn't know what nationality they were. I mean, these are repeated stories. I have no reason to assume that this story is correct."
The CIA veteran goes on to say that at present there is no story that sounds as credible as Hersh's version. Besides, the US had the motive; it had the capability to do it; and it also had the objective to do it as a way of weakening Russia's ability to influence Western Europe, Giraldi summarized.
"So I think that a lot of the background or the backstory supports the fact that the United States basically did it, though, apparently with the assistance of the Norwegians, and I would imagine some of the other NATO allies were also briefed in a certain fashion. In other words, not all the details, but given some indication that something might be happening in the near future in the Baltic."
Why Couldn't EU Investigators Name the Culprit?
It's hardly surprising that despite official investigations
in three countries - Sweden, Denmark, and Germany - the question of who is responsible for the sabotage remains unanswered, according to Giraldi.
"The fact that there have been three investigations carried out means nothing because the three countries that carry out the investigation are all NATO members. So they would have no motive whatsoever to challenge the argument that this was carried out by the Russians themselves or by the Ukrainians," the CIA veteran said.
However, Giraldi suspects that the German investigation probably came closest to the truth. However, what they told the public was essentially a narrative acceptable to the United States and to NATO. The former CIA field officer pointed out that Germany suffered the most
from the destruction of the Nord Stream pipelines.
"Their economy is in trouble. They were dependent on Russian energy and so they are paying a price for it, and I'm sure that many Germans - I do know that many Germans are aware of this and are complaining that this ever took place. I was in Eastern Europe about two months ago, and I heard this a lot from Europeans, how stupid this whole thing was to destroy a resource that was very good for Europe as well as being good for Russia."
According to Giraldi, it's interesting to examine who else - apart from the US and Norway - was aware of the Nord Stream plot and was foolhardy enough to get involved in it. Giraldi doubted whether Berlin had been in collusion with the US and Norway from the beginning and said that it did not make sense for a country to sacrifice its own economy willingly.
Furthermore, the Nord Stream pipelines weren't just a Gazprom asset, Giraldi emphasized: there were other countries - other companies from Western Europe - that participated in the project that had been worth billions of dollars. And because of the US plot, their money had been squandered and their infrastructure had suffered incalculable damage.
But the financial aspect is only half the story: the most worrying part is that those who blew the pipelines up risked escalating the crisis dramatically.
"The destruction of the pipeline was an act of war," stressed Giraldi, "... so this is an interesting story if we ever find out the truth."
On 17 September 2023, the First Deputy Permanent Representative of Russia to the UN Dmitry Polyansky said that Russia was calling for the UN Security Council to meet to discuss the Nord Stream gas pipelines and the council will gather on Tuesday, 26 September - a year after the sabotage occurred.
On 27 August, the Prime Minister of the German federal state of Saxony, Michael Kretschmer, announced the need to repair the damaged gas pipelines which he said will help to ensure the country's energy supply for another five to 10 years.