It has now become apparent that someone deliberately sabotaged the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines in the Baltic Sea that were built to supply Russian gas to Europe. Who did it and why? When analyzing the facts and compiling a list of suspects, as a general rule it is important to not jump to conclusions regarding the guilt of any specific suspects. It is also just as important as a general rule to not prematurely assume the innocence of any suspects to the point of not considering the possibility of their guilt at all. Already in the US mainstream media we are seeing these rules being broken, or at least not taken seriously, regarding objective analysis and coverage of this potentially game-changing event in geopolitics.
Reviewing the media coverage of this event so far, we are seeing the discounting of the possibility that the US, or more specifically, US actors within the US government and their allies, may have conducted these attacks for a variety of reasons. This is primarily coming in the form of not reporting or underreporting what seem to be very important facts that would be necessary for their audience to receive a proper analysis and consideration of the event. The phrase “there is no evidence of US involvement” seems like it will be the default message in this regard, if the topic comes up at all. Conversely, we are seeing an almost operating assumption in the coverage that Russia is the likely culprit, with quotes from foreign officials espousing their opinions serving as the primary eidence so far. Given that “the West” is fighting a proxy war with Russia in Ukraine at the moment, this may seem like a worthy assumption on the surface. A closer look at the situation reveals it would be premature and irresponsible to rule out US actors and their allies as the culprits given they have experience in such acts, they have motive, and they have the means to carry it out.
In February of 2014 the US helped plan and conduct a coup to overthrow the Ukrainian government and install one more friendly to US interests. In a leaked January 27, 2014 phone call between then Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland and the US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt, Nuland famously remarked, “Fuck the EU” regarding possible EU objections to some of their preferences on leadership choices after the coup. Pyatt appeared to agree with her sentiment. Clearly, it cannot be assumed that the official status of alliance between the US and the EU means the US will always act with the best interests of the EU in mind. The Nord Stream projects are arguably very valuable and necessary for Europe, but not everyone in Europe agrees. The war in Ukraine could have changed some minds in Europe too (or at least applied pressure to change minds). Certainly many in the US do not want Nord Stream to exist at all and have seen its halting and/or destruction as a possible response to Russian offensives. On January 27, 2022, Victoria Nuland, now the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs stated, “If Russia invades Ukraine, one way or another, Nord Stream 2 will not move forward.”
Soon after on February 7, 2022 just prior to Russia launching its offensive against the western-backed Ukrainian government, Joe Biden, a longtime opponent of the Nord Stream projects, said at a press conference with Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz, “If Russia invades, that means tanks or troops crossing the … border of Ukraine again, then there will be … no longer a Nord Stream 2. We, we will bring an end to it.” When he was asked how exactly he would do this given that the project is in German control, Biden said with a smirk, “I promise you, we’ll be able to do it.” Despite Biden’s mental failings and his long-time big mouth, he is usually still sharp enough to leave a bit to the imagination when it comes to what he means. The media of course is willing and able to give him the benefit of any doubt. You as an intelligent citizen and voter, should not.
Why might US interests want to cut off the Nord Stream pipelines that supply needed Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) to Europe? Like eastward NATO expansion over the decades, siding with Russia’s enemies regarding separatist movements and other regional affairs, the coup and war in Ukraine, and economic sanctions against Russia, reducing Russia’s gas exports to Europe is part of a larger geopolitical strategy to weaken Russia and push for regime change there. In this context, the pain that may be suffered in Europe due to LNG supply disruption would be seen as necessary “for the greater good” of accomplishing the geopolitical win. There is also the matter of money to be made by shifting US policy and increasing US exports of gas to Europe in the long term, as well as bolstering the case for alternative energy infrastructure that eliminates dependence on Russian energy. As some commentators have pointed out, the attacks on the Nord Stream pipelines occurred at the same time as officials were announcing the opening of the Baltic Pipe, a Norway-Poland pipeline that is one part of the overall strategy to phase out dependence on Russian gas.
Why would US interests and their allies need to sabotage the Nord Stream pipelines if they were already cut off due to sanctions and if European leaders were coming around more to the idea of energy independence from Russia? I think the answer would be to ensure public sentiment does not shift back to calls to reopen the pipelines, especially if enthusiasm wanes for support of the Ukrainians in their fight against Russia. Rendering the pipelines inoperable eliminates this possibility and shifts demand more towards their preferred solutions. As I previously indicated, the referendums in the four breakaway regions of Ukraine seeking to join Russia threaten to be a game changer in the war, not because the Ukrainians, the US, the EU or anyone else would recognize these regions as part of Russia, but because Russia claiming they are part of Russia would make it more difficult to conduct NATO-backed offensive operations there without risky escalation with a nuclear power. It was already well-recognized early in the conflict (correctly) that NATO would not be conducting offensive operations within Russian territory. The results of the referendum and the Russification of the regions blurs this line and makes calls for a negotiated settlement more appealing, especially with winter fast approaching. It is difficult and miserable to fight in winter, the Ukrainians may wish to avoid potential destruction of their infrastructure, and the Europeans may have renewed calls to negotiate to receive their much needed gas imports. Indeed, protests against EU energy policy and calls to reopen the Nord Stream pipelines were already increasing around Europe in the weeks before the sabotage.
What about capability? The scientific evidence eliminated the possibility of an earthquake or other reasons for the leaks rather quickly. Explosions were identified as the cause of the leaks. Given the location and technical specification of the pipelines, this means whoever is responsible would have to be capable of a very sophisticated attack in a rather secure area. State actors appear to be the most likely to be capable of such operations. Would this include the US and its allies in the region? They are certainly capable and had access to the area. I will not go into the details of possible equipment that may have been used, US/NATO operations in the area prior to the explosions, or the various alternative scenarios that are forming as to how it may of occurred. We should let the investigation reveal more facts first. Just briefly however, some speculation that is already buzzing centers around the annual BALTOPS operations in the Baltic Sea, which would have provided a convenient way to place explosives on the pipes for later detonation. Objectively, this appear to be at least as plausible a scenario as the one being primarily perpetuated in the media claiming Russian “Frogmen” could have been inserted in the area undetected by NATO and placed the explosives. Both “sides” of course could have used some sort of underwater drone to attack the pipeline. We simply do not have enough information on the means of attack as of yet. What I wish to stress in this article however is that despite what the mainstream media prefers to promote, we cannot and should not eliminate the US and its allies as suspects from any investigation into this event.
Most people want the truth. Most people want their “side” to stand for truth and act in accord with true, honest, and just principles. We like to think our governments do this. But if they can count on the population to act jingoistic, if they know they can manipulate popular opinion with propaganda in the media, we are more likely to see dishonest actors acting contrary to our principles to achieve their ends. Even if the ends are supposedly good, we should not universalize or accept such behavior. Could Russia or some other actor have sabotaged these pipelines? Sure. But so too could the US and its allies have done it. Would you be fine with them lying about it and getting away with it if they did?