The ‘Nord Stream-investigation’ tragicomedy goes on

3 min read

There is a scene in the 1997 American political satire Wag the Dog, when the two main protagonists, Conrad Brean and Stanley Motss have a conversation:

CB: You watched the Gulf War, what do you see day after day? The one smart bomb falling down the chimney. The truth? I was in the building when we shot that shot – we shot in a studio, Falls Church, Virginia. One-tenth scale model of a building.

SM: Is that true?

CB: How the f*ck do we know? You take my point?

For many, reading the latest news about the mysterious attack on September 26 against the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines, long forgotten memories of that movie might just bubble up.

Ever since the attack, conspiracy theories have been blooming.

NATO released a statement and said that the “pipeline leaks were likely the result of deliberate, reckless and irresponsible acts of sabotage”.

Poland and Ukraine immediately accused Russia of the act, without actually offering any evidence. Most of Poland, anyways. Former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Defense, Radek Sikorski posted a tweet, “Thank you, USA”, with the photo of bubbling water above the sabotaged part of the pipelines. The tweet was deleted a few days later after international uproar and hurried clarifications from Mr. Sikorski, claiming that “it was only speculation”.

While Denmark, Sweden and Germany were more cautious and reiterated ‘only’ that acts of sabotage against the pipelines were “unacceptable, endanger international security and give cause for our deep concern”, the US and Russia traded mutual accusations, while Russia also accused Britain of carrying out the operation, again, without offering evidence.

Russia had repeatedly (the last time only a couple of days ago) demanded an independent, international investigation, alleging that the US was behind the attack, saying the sabotage “occurred after repeated threats to the Nord Stream by the leadership of the United States” and expressing serious concern at the “devastating consequences to the environment” which also “pose a threat to international peace and security”.

The U.S., via U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price denied the allegation, calling in “pure disinformation”. Various outlets repeatedly cited Russia as the likely culprit, claiming that the purpose of the sabotage was retribution. At the same time, Anthony Blinken didn’t fail to draw Europeans’ attention to the great possibility to wean off themselves from Russian gas.

The shocking turn came on February 10, when an article on a blog written by Pulitzer-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has claimed that the bombing was carried out by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. In a covert operation. At the direction of the White House. According to the report, U.S. Navy divers, operating under cover of a mid-summer NATO exercise in 2022, planted remotely triggered bombs.

According to the journalist the White House feared that “as long as Germany and much of Western Europe were dependent on the Nord Stream pipelines for a cheap supply of gas, they would be hesitant in providing aid and arms to Ukraine against a possible invasion by Russia”. The best spot to target was then chosen in cooperation with Norway.

Once can have many doubts about the truth behind the report. Some details are blurry, some quotes might be taken out of context. Seymour Hersh might be working for Russia, after all.

The White House dismissed the blog post as “utterly false and complete fiction”, but the online sphere has been buzzing ever since.

To add another twist on the story, on March 7, the New York Times and the German Die Zeit published yet another report, this time based on information received from various intelligence sources from both sides of the Atlantic, claiming that a pro-Ukrainian saboteur group might be behind the attack.

German investigators came to the conclusion that the attack on the pipelines was likely carried out by a team of six people. They might or might not had gotten military training in the past.

All used professionally falsified passports, so their identity is still unknown.

They used a yacht, hired by a company registered in Poland and owned by two Ukrainian citizens.

The report also suggests that the Ukrainian government had no influence on the underwater strike.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky rushed to declare that his government was ‘in no way involved in the attack’, because ‘in the midst of a war … Ukraine and its allies would definitely not spend resources on something that would not bring us victory directly on the battlefield. It doesn’t make any sense. But it is extremely beneficial for Russia itself to try to switch attention from the war … and try to present itself as a kind of ‘victim’.”

One of his advisers, Mykhailo Podolyak, said the same, claiming “Ukraine was absolutely not involved”.

Official German and American reactions to the news were cautious, all claiming that further evidence was needed before coming to conclusions and trading accusations. White House spokesperson John Kirby’s statement was unambiguous, “we need to let these investigations conclude and only that should we be looking at what follow-on actions might or may not be appropriate”.

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius went a step further, claiming that the report “could be a false-flag operation aimed at pinning the blame on pro-Ukrainian groups”, and that “the likelihood of one [theory] or the other is just as high”.

Russia, via Kremlin spokesperson Dimitri Peskov, has immediately claimed that the latest report was part of a coordinated effort by ‘the authors of the attack’ to divert attention and confuse people.

So far, we know/suspect about the attack that:

It might have been ordered in Moscow.

Or, it might have been ordered in Washington.

Or, it might have been a “false flag” operation organized by Ukraine (and/or its allies) to blame Russia.

Or, it might have been a “false flag” operation organized by Russia, to blame Ukraine and the US.

As of today, there is no hard evidence confirming or refuting any of the above theories.

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