Since the publication of Seymour Hersh’s bombshell article alleging that the U.S. was behind the Nord Stream sabotage, many sceptics have concluded the case is now closed. It was America.
This attitude is understandable. After all, Hersch is a legendary investigative reporter who in his long career has broken several stories that were initially dismissed as fabrications and later proven correct. All of these stories were, shall we say, ‘inconvenient’ for the U.S. government.
What’s more, his sabotage story seems to fit together so well. U.S. officials have been threatening for years – and I’m directly quoting here – to “end”, “halt”, “stop”, “kill”, “cancel”, “shut down”, “take out”, “terminate” and “put an end to” Nord Stream 2. (Seriously, watch this video by Matt Orfalea.) And no-one besides the Norwegians – whom Hersh claims were also involved – will benefit more from Nord Stream’s demise than Uncle Sam.
Yet I’m not convinced. Sure, my prior has shifted somewhat toward the U.S. as the party responsible. But if I had to bet, I still think Ukraine’s the most likely culprit.
To begin with, several commentators have picked holes in Hersh’s story, which is far from watertight. Indeed, it’s much more porous than his ultra-confident tone implies. Some of his quotes even sound like they were lifted from a Hollywood movie. Referring to Biden – the alleged mastermind of the operation – Hersh’s source apparently said, “I gotta admit the guy has a pair of balls.”
Then there’s all the circumstantial evidence pointing to Ukraine. Let’s review it.
Motive. Sabotaging the pipelines eliminated Germany’s incentive to defect from the pro-Ukraine coalition. It also ensured that any Russian gas flowing to Northern Europe in the near future will have to go through Ukraine.
Risk. Of all the possible culprits, Ukraine is the only one that could sabotage the pipelines without the risk of sparking World War III. And even though they would have technically attacked Germany, justifying it as retaliation against Russia would have been fairly straightforward (their infrastructure was getting bombed at the time).
Precedent. Since the conflict began, Ukraine has carried out a number of successful sabotage operations. They were behind the attack on Kerch bridge, the assassination of Darya Dugin, and the explosion at Saky airfield. They’re also alleged to be responsible for a spate of “mystery explosions” inside Russia itself. According to the FSB, they even attempted to sabotage the South Stream pipeline.
Warning. Last September, Der Spiegel reported that Germany had been warned by the CIA about a possible Ukrainian attack on the Nord Stream pipelines.
Disclosure. In a recent interview with Freddie Sayers, U.S. national security advisor Fiona Hill stated, “Some of my colleagues who have been looking at this think Ukraine could have done it. And this isn’t implausible”. As to whether they had the means, “Ukraine could have found a way of doing this: we’ve seen them be extremely inventive” – she added.
If the Ukrainians were in fact responsible, how do we explain the threats from U.S. officials, such as Biden’s pronouncement that “there will be no longer Nord Stream 2. We will bring an end to it”?
Easy. When Biden said that, he didn’t mean “we will blow up the pipeline”; he meant “we will tell Germany to cancel its approval”. And of course, that’s exactly what Germany did on February 22nd last year. The U.S. has been pressuring Germany to cancel the pipelines since as far back as 2008. And when Russia recognised the two breakaway regions, they finally had the leverage they needed.