Yesterday evening, news that “pro-Ukraine saboteurs” may have been responsible for the Nord Stream sabotage was simultaneously reported by the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Times of London, and the German newspaper Die Zeit.
There is “no evidence” that Zelensky or his top generals were involved, the newspapers claimed. Nonetheless, “traces lead in the direction of Ukraine”.
The two American newspapers simply referred to “intelligence reviewed by U.S. officials”, details of which were not disclosed. In fact, the New York Times offered this hilariously obtuse observation: “The review of newly collected intelligence suggests [the saboteurs] were opponents of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.” Opponents of Vladimir Putin – you don’t say!
The two European newspapers were slightly more forthcoming.
According to the Times, Scandinavian diplomats were told only a week after the attack took place that it had been carried out by “a private venture originating in Ukraine”. The name of the “suspected private sponsor” is apparently known to intelligence officials, but was not revealed in the article.
The article did explain, however, that the operation involved “a yacht, elite divers, forged passports and the procurement of shaped explosive charges only available to the gas and oil industry”. So perhaps our international man of mystery is an oligarch in the energy sector? (That would certainly answer the question of ‘cui bono?’)
Die Zeit’s report furnished yet more details.
A “breakthrough” in the investigation by German authorities, the paper noted, has made it possible to “largely reconstruct how and when the explosive attack was prepared”. In particular:
The secret operation at sea was carried out by a team of six people… five men and one woman… the group consisted of a captain, two divers, two diving assistants and a doctor… the command set sail from Rostock on September 6th, 2022. The equipment for the secret operation was previously transported to the port in a delivery truck.
As to the evidence implicating Ukraine, “a Western secret service is said to have sent a tip to European partner services”, with subsequent intelligence confirming that a “pro-Ukrainian group could be responsible”. Investigators cannot rule out that it was a false flag attack by Russia – though they have found “no evidence that confirms such a scenario”.
What should we make of all this?
On the one hand, it certainly makes sense. Indeed, I’ve been arguing for months that Ukraine is the most likely culprit. (I had been envisioning a Government-sanctioned op, and while yesterday’s reports insist Zelensky was not involved, the New York Times says that those responsible might have “connections to the Ukrainian Government or its security services”).
On the other hand, it seems a little too convenient for the U.S. Government. As a sceptic might put it: “You say nothing for five months and then 30 days after a respected journalist points the finger at the American President, you say you can’t be sure but it was probably some pro-Ukraine saboteurs; definitely not Zelensky and definitely not Biden.”
Having said that, there’s reason to be sceptical – of the scepticism, I mean.
If intelligence agencies simply wanted to shift blame away from the U.S. Government, wouldn’t they have pinned the blame on Russia instead? All they’d have had to do is leak unconfirmed ‘intelligence’ pointing to rogue elements in the FSB, or an elaborate false flag operation designed to split the Western alliance.
A sceptic might reply that they couldn’t blame Russia because, at this point, nobody would buy it. Perhaps. But even blaming “pro-Ukraine saboteurs” isn’t risk-free from the U.S. Government’s perspective. As the New York Times notes, “Any suggestion of Ukrainian involvement, whether direct or indirect, could upset the delicate relationship between Ukraine and Germany.”
Then there’s the fact that German and Scandinavian intelligence also uncovered evidence leading back to Ukraine. Of course, such evidence could have been fed to them by U.S intelligence agencies. But the conspiracy is now getting so complicated that the simpler explanation – that there actually is evidence pointing to Ukraine – looks more plausible.
The final development worth mentioning is that Seymour Hersh told the Russian newspaper Izvestia that he plans to publish a new investigation about Nord Stream next week. Learning of yesterday’s New York Times article, he apparently said, “It cannot be true … ‘Special services suggest’, ‘pro-Ukrainian’! My God.”
Hold on to your seats.
Stop Press: Journalist Mark Ames points out that until recently, European officials believed that a “state actor” must be responsible. This raises doubts about the veracity of the new intelligence, or suggests the “pro-Ukraine saboteurs” had state-backing after all.
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