Ever since the Nord Stream sabotage took place, I’ve argued that Ukraine is the most likely culprit.
It had a strong motive: eliminating Germany’s incentive to defect from the pro-Ukraine coalition. It would have been much less risky for Ukraine than for either Russia or a NATO country. There’s precedent: Ukraine has carried out numerous sabotage operations during the war. And in the summer of 2022, Germany was actually warned about a possible Ukrainian attack on the pipelines.
Back in March, various Western newspapers reported that “pro-Ukraine saboteurs” may have been responsible. Although there was “no evidence” that Zelensky or his top generals were involved, the saboteurs “might have connections to the Ukrainian Government or its security services”, wrote the New York Times.
In its own reporting, the Times referred to a “suspected private sponsor, a Ukrainian not affiliated with President Zelensky’s government”, and claimed that his name “has been circulating in intelligence circles for months”.
The alleged plot involved “a yacht, elite divers, forged passports and the procurement of shaped explosive charges only available to the gas and oil industry”. The yacht, where it is said investigators found “traces of explosives”, was later identified as the Andromeda – a 50ft pleasure boat.
As to who the “suspect private sponsor” might be, German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that he is a “Ukrainian oligarch” who “used to be active in politics”, and that the sabotage took place on his birthday. All this points to former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, whose birthday is September 26th – the date of the bombing.
In the latest development, the Times reports that Germany’s Federal Office of Criminal Investigation is “exploring fresh leads in a theory implicating Ukraine”. (The theory is the same as before – the one involving the Andromeda.)
Investigators think the attack “could only have been carried out with help from a state security service”, and they have “uncovered evidence that may point to Ukrainian involvement”. Note that until the reports about “pro-Ukraine saboteurs” appeared, European officials had been insisting that a “state actor” must be responsible.
In addition to the two Ukrainians who are said to have founded the company that rented the Andromeda, German authorities have identified two others who may have been part of the ship’s crew – one of whom is believed to have served in the army.
The main reason to doubt the ‘Andromeda theory’ is that it’s difficult to believe such a small team of people, using only a pleasure boat, would have been able to carry out the operation. It’s a “James Bond” theory, as one commentator put it. On the other hand, U.S. national security advisor Fiona Hill has said that “Ukraine could have found a way of doing this: we’ve seen them be extremely inventive”.
Aside from the possibility that Russia is responsible, something of which German investigators are apparently “unconvinced”, the main rival theory is Seymour Hersch’s – which pins the blame on U.S. President Joe Biden. While his story may yet be corroborated, various inaccuracies and inconsistencies have been identified and I don’t find it nearly as plausible as the one implicating Ukraine.
The latest inaccuracy in Hersch’s reporting concerns his article ‘THE UKRAINE REFUGEE QUESTION’, where he includes Hungary in a list of countries that are “allies of Ukraine and declared enemies of Vladimir Putin”. This simply isn’t true: Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has been highly critical of Zelensky and is generally considered Europe’s most Russian-friendly leader.
According to leaked documents seen by the Washington Post, Zelensky has expressed “rage” toward Hungary and even suggested blowing up the Druzhba pipeline which transports oil from Russia. So it sounds like the feeling’s mutual. (Incidentally, the Post’s revelation constitutes further circumstantial evidence for Ukrainian involvement in the Nord Stream sabotage.)
If Hersch can’t get basic details right, it’s hard to trust his more audacious claims about the bombing of Nord Stream. I still don’t buy it.