Who blew up Nord Stream? – POLITICO

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Practically six months on from the subsea fuel pipeline explosions, which despatched geopolitical shockwaves all over the world in September, there may be nonetheless no conclusive reply to the query of who blew up Nord Stream.


Some had been fast to position the blame squarely at Russia’s door — citing its report of hybrid warfare and a doable motive of intimidation, within the midst of a bitter financial struggle with Europe over fuel provide.

However half a 12 months has handed with none agency proof for this — or some other clarification — being produced by the continuing investigations of authorities in three European nations.

For the reason that day of the assault, 4 states — Russia, the U.S., Ukraine and the U.Ok. — have been publicly blamed for the explosions, with various levels of proof.

Nonetheless, some issues are identified for certain.

As was extensively assumed inside hours of the blast, the explosions had been an act of deliberate sabotage. One of many three investigations, led by Sweden’s Prosecution Authority, confirmed in November that residues of explosives and a number of other “overseas objects” had been discovered on the “crime scene” on the seabed, round 100 meters beneath the floor of the Baltic Sea, near the Danish Island of Bornholm.

Now two new media stories — one from the New York Times, the opposite a joint investigation by German public broadcasters ARD and SWR, plus newspaper Die Zeit — raised the likelihood {that a} pro-Ukrainian group — although not essentially state-backed — might have been accountable. On Wednesday, the German Prosecutor’s Workplace confirmed it had searched a ship in January suspected of transporting explosives used within the sabotage, however was nonetheless investigating the seized objects, the identities of the perpetrators and their doable motives.

Within the info vacuum since September, varied theories have surfaced as to the offender and their motive:

Principle 1: Putin, the vitality bully

Within the days instantly after the assault, the working assumption of many analysts within the West was that this was a brazen act of intimidation on the a part of Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Volodymyr Zelenskyy, spelt out the speculation by way of his Twitter feed on September 27 — the day after the explosions had been first detected. He branded the incident “nothing extra [than] a terrorist assault deliberate by Russia and act of aggression in the direction of the EU” linked to Moscow’s dedication to impress “pre-winter panic” over fuel provides to Europe.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki additionally hinted at Russian involvement. Russia denied accountability.

The Nord Stream pipes are part-owned by Russia’s Gazprom. The corporate had by the point of the explosions introduced an “indefinite” shutdown of the Nord Stream 1 pipes, citing technical points which the EU branded “fallacious pretences.” The brand new Nord Stream 2 pipes, in the meantime, had by no means been introduced into the service. Inside days of Gazprom asserting the shutdown in early September, Putin issued a veiled menace that Europe would “freeze” if it caught to its plan of vitality sanctions towards Russia.

However why blow up the pipeline, if fuel blackmail by way of shutdowns had already proved efficient? Why finish the opportunity of fuel ever flowing once more?


Simone Tagliapietra, vitality specialist and senior fellow on the Bruegel assume tank, mentioned it was doable that — if it was Russia — there might have been inside divisions about any such resolution. “At that time, when Putin had mainly determined to cease supplying [gas to] Germany, many in Russia might have been towards that. This was a supply of revenues.” It’s doable, Tagliapietra mentioned, that “hardliners” took the choice to finish the controversy by ending the pipelines.

Blowing up Nord Stream, on this studying of the scenario, was a closing declaration of Russia’s willingness to chop off Europe’s fuel provide indefinitely, whereas additionally demonstrating its hybrid warfare capabilities. In October, Putin mentioned that the assault had proven that “any important infrastructure in transport, vitality or communication infrastructure is below menace — no matter what a part of the world it’s situated” — phrases seen by many within the West as a veiled menace of extra to come back.

Principle 2: The Brits did it

From the start, Russian leaders have insinuated that both Ukraine or its Western allies had been behind the assault. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said two days after the explosions that accusations of Russian culpability had been “fairly predictable and predictably silly.” He added that Moscow had little interest in blowing up Nord Stream. “We now have misplaced a route for fuel provides to Europe.”

Then a month on from the blasts, the Russian protection ministry made the very particular allegation that “representatives of the U.Ok. Navy participated in planning, supporting and executing” the assault. No proof was given. The identical supposed British specialists had been additionally concerned in serving to Ukraine coordinate a drone assault on Sevastopol in Crimea, Moscow mentioned.  

The U.Ok.’s Ministry of Defence mentioned the “invented” allegations had been supposed to distract consideration from Russia’s current defeats on the battlefield. In any case, Moscow quickly modified its tune.

Principle 3: U.S. black ops

In February, with formal investigations in Germany, Sweden and Denmark nonetheless but to report, an article by the U.S. investigative journalist Seymour Hersh triggered a brand new wave of hypothesis. Hersh’s allegation: U.S. forces blew up Nord Stream on direct orders from Joe Biden.

The account — based mostly on a single supply mentioned to have “direct data of the operational planning” — alleged that an “obscure deep-diving group in Panama Metropolis” was secretly assigned to put remotely-detonated mines on the pipelines. It prompt Biden’s rationale was to sever as soon as and for all Russia’s fuel hyperlink to Germany, making certain that no quantity of Kremlin blackmail might deter Berlin from steadfastly supporting Ukraine.

Hersh’s article additionally drew on Biden’s public remarks when, in February 2022, shortly earlier than Russia’s full-scale invasion, he told reporters that ought to Russia invade “there shall be now not Nord Stream 2. We are going to deliver an finish to it.”

The White Home described Hersh’s story as “totally false and full fiction.” The article definitely included some doubtful claims, not least that NATO Secretary Basic Jens Stoltenberg has “cooperated with the American intelligence neighborhood because the Vietnam Warfare.” Stoltenberg, born in 1959, was 16 years outdated when the struggle ended.

Russian leaders, nevertheless, seized on the report, citing it as proof on the U.N. Security Council later in February and calling for an U.N.-led inquiry into the assaults, prompting Germany, Denmark and Sweden to difficulty a joint statement saying their investigations had been ongoing.

Principle 4: The thriller boatmen

The most recent clues — following stories on Tuesday from the New York Occasions and German media — middle on a ship, six folks with cast passports and the tiny Danish island of Christiansø.

In accordance with these stories, a ship that set sail from the German port of Rostock, later stopping at Christiansø, is on the middle of the Nord Stream investigations.

Germany’s federal prosecutor confirmed on Wednesday {that a} ship suspected of transporting explosives had been searched in January — and a number of the 100 or so residents of tiny Christiansø instructed Denmark’s TV2 that police had visited the island and made inquiries. Residents had been invited to come back ahead with info by way of a put up on the island’s Fb web page.

Each the New York Occasions and the German media stories prompt that intelligence is pointing to a hyperlink to a pro-Ukrainian group, though there is no such thing as a proof that any orders got here from the Ukrainian authorities and the identities of the alleged perpetrators are additionally nonetheless unknown.

Podolyak, Zelenskyy’s adviser, tweeted he was having fun with “gathering amusing conspiracy theories” about what occurred to Nord Stream, however that Ukraine had “nothing to do” with it and had “no details about pro-Ukraine sabotage teams.”

In the meantime, Germany’s Protection Minister Boris Pistorius warned towards “leaping to conclusions” concerning the newest stories, including that it was doable that there might have been a “false flag” operation accountable Ukraine.

The Danish Safety and Intelligence Service mentioned solely that their investigation was ongoing, whereas a spokesperson for Sweden’s Prosecution Authority mentioned info can be shared when accessible — however there was “no timeline” for when the inquiries can be accomplished.

The thriller continues.

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