A sensational report alleging that the US bombed the Nord Stream pipelines has reignited the blame game over who was targeted by the $20 billion infrastructure project that will funnel Russian gas into Western Europe.
The White House on Wednesday reiterated its denial that the US orchestrated a series of blasts in September 2022. A spokesman described a report claiming that US Navy divers had planted remote-controlled explosives on the pipeline as “utterly false and complete fiction.”
Investigators from Sweden and Denmark have confirmed that explosives were found at the blast sites in the Baltic Sea, but no nation or entity has been formally named as a suspect in the attack.
The explosions on September 26, 2022 caused extensive damage to three of the four Nord Stream pipelines, taking 15 years to complete.
For Russia, it appeared to be a major blow to its energy-driven economy, as the damage would prevent billions of dollars worth of gas from flowing into Europe.
A report by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh claims that the US was responsible for the attacks on the Nord Stream pipeline. Navy divers allegedly planted the explosives in June, using NATO exercises as a cover. They were then remotely detonated in September, it is alleged. The White House and the CIA flatly denied the report.
Russia is also accused of carrying out the Nord Stream gas explosions. Explanations range from divers to spy submarines and underwater drones, with the possible motive being to cripple Europe’s winter energy supply
For Europe, it exacerbated an energy crisis that was already spiraling out of control. Countries, including Germany, depended heavily on Russian energy imports, and it has proven challenging — and costly — to forgo those supplies.
Several countries would have motives for the action: Russia, Germany, Ukraine, Poland, Great Britain and the United States.
Western fingers have continued to point at Russia, and Moscow has accused the US and Britain of the sabotage.
The report published Wednesday by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh cites two main reasons why the US may have plotted an attack on the pipeline: in retaliation for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and to prevent the Kremlin from weaponizing its energy supply to Europe.
Hersh’s 5,000-word report, published on his Substack blog, cites a single, anonymous source as having “direct operational planning knowledge.”
Vladimir Putin has accused the West of carrying out the attack. Russia initially pointed the finger at the UK, then claimed in February that the US was directly involved
President Joe Biden, who said he would “put an end” to Nord Stream if Russia invaded Ukraine. Senior US officials have previously said it “appears” Russia is responsible for the attack
The source revealed an elaborate, dangerous and top secret mission in which US Navy divers placed C4 explosives on the pipeline which were detonated three months later by a sonar buoy dropped by a Norwegian surveillance aircraft. Norway has also said that ‘these allegations are false’.
The plot, reportedly overseen by President Joe Biden, is not just elaborate and highly technical. The international backlash if the US were found to have carried out such an operation would be enormous.
The CIA has also flatly denied any US involvement in the pipeline attacks.
Russia has been accused by several Western countries of the attack, described by some as an act of self-sabotage.
Officials in the government of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksy have also blamed Russia for the Nord Stream bombings
Theories as to why the Kremlin would order such an operation against the infrastructure that Russia’s economy relies on include stopping energy flow to Europe as winter approaches.
Russia’s attacks on civilian infrastructure in Ukraine have also increased suspicion of Vladimir Putin.
In the immediate aftermath, senior US officials, including Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, said it “appears” Russia was to blame. Members of the German government expressed similar suspicions.
Ukraine said the blasts were a terrorist attack planned by Russia and an act of aggression against Russia [the European Union]’.
But according to a Washington Post report in December, officials in several countries were not convinced that Russia had carried out the attacks.
A European official told the Post that “there is currently no evidence that Russia was behind the sabotage,” and the report said the assessment reflected the views of 23 other diplomatic and intelligence officials in nine countries.
Russia has tried to pin the blame on several Western countries.
In October, just over a month after the incident, Russia’s defense ministry said British naval personnel had launched the attack. In a statement, the British army was accused of ‘planning, executing and executing a terrorist attack in the Baltic Sea’.
Britain said the Kremlin was “spreading false claims of epic proportions” to “detract from their disastrous handling of the illegal invasion of Ukraine”.
This month, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the US of direct involvement in the attacks.
He was referring to a recent statement by US Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland, who welcomed the destruction of the pipeline at a recent Senate hearing. Lavrov described her words as a “confession.”
Unsurprisingly, Russia has taken issue with the latest allegation of US involvement, demanding that the White House address the “facts” reported by Hersh.