The Guardian’s coverage of the recent Nord Stream sabotage highlights the increasingly absurd lengths to which Western media will go to promote the U.S. government’s hegemonic agenda.
Guardian coverage of this portentous event has included at least three, shameless exercises in propaganda-masquerading-as-journalism.
On September 28 – two days after natural gas began belching into the Baltic Sea due to multiple blasts targeting Nord Stream – the Guardian published an article by Philip Oltermann, the Guardian’s Berlin bureau chief, entitled “Nord Stream blasts could herald new phase of hybrid war, say EU politicians”.
By focusing attention on the perspective of EU politicians, the title of Oltermann’s article left no doubt as to its bias: E.U. governments have flooded Ukraine with weapons and have imposed sanctions on Russia that were plainly designed to destroy its economy. None of the E.U. officials quoted in the article can plausibly claim to be independent, objective arbiters of the debate over who attacked the Nord Stream pipelines.
According to Oltermann:
Roderich Kiesewetter, a member of parliament for the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), told the Guardian the pipeline attack had the hallmarks of the “hybrid warfare approach” Russia has pursued for the last decade, with the aim of “dividing the European Union not by military but through social and diplomatic means”.
“We have to ask who has an interest in destroying this infrastructure,” said Kiesewetter, a member of the Bundestag’s committee on foreign affairs. While it was in the interest of the US, states in central and eastern Europe and the Baltics that Nord Stream 2 would never be activated, he argued that an act of state-sponsored sabotage by a Nato ally would have come attached with too large a risk of a political backlash.
“Russia, on the other hand, has an interest in sending us a signal: to threaten it could cause similar damage to pipelines between Algeria and France, to our power lines or submarine fibre-optic cables […] I consider it likely that Russia was behind this attack.”
What does Keisewetter mean by “hybrid warfare approach”, and why is this approach uniquely that of Russia? For decades, the U.S. military has degraded and destroyed the civilian infrastructure of its official enemies – for example, in Iraq and Libya. Therefore, one could just as easily argue that this act of sabotage has all “the hallmarks” of U.S. aggression.
Keisewetter does acknowledge that the U.S. (as well as certain unnamed European states) had an interest in killing the Nord Stream pipelines (more on that later), but he claims that the political backlash from their sabotage of Nord Stream would constitute “too large a risk”.
Yet, if recent history teaches us anything about relations between the United States and the E.U., it’s that the U.S. can get away with just about any betrayal of the E.U.’s trust.
In 2014, the Guardian and other Western media outlets revealed, thanks to whistleblower Edward Snowden, that the U.K. intelligence agency, GCHQ, had tapped into fibre-optic cables carrying global communications, and that GCHQ had shared vast amounts of data with its U.S. counterpart, the NSA. The targeted fibre-optic cables included three undersea cables with terminals in Italy.
The Snowden documents also disclosed that the U.S. had spied on E.U. internal computer networks in Washington and the E.U.’s United Nations office in New York, and that the NSA had conducted an electronic eavesdropping operation in a building in Brussels, where the E.U. Council of Ministers and the European Council were located.
At the time, Western media outlets also reported that the U.S. had secretly intercepted and monitored cell phone conversations of Angela Merkel, who was then Germany’s Chancellor.
What was the “backlash” resulting from U.S. spying on Merkel and other top E.U officials? What price did the U.S. government pay for undermining the integrity of telecommunications infrastructure in the E.U.?
Apart from a few theatrical, you-hurt-our-feelings protestations from E.U. leaders — for example, Merkel’s pathetic complaint to Obama that U.S. spying on her cell phone conversations was “completely unacceptable” — there was no meaningful “backlash”.
The E.U. imposed no sanctions on the U.S. It did not sever diplomatic relations with the U.S.. It did not close down a single U.S. military base. Indeed, since the Snowden revelations emerged, U.S.-E.U. relations have been conducted essentially on a business-as-usual basis.
Predictably, Oltermann mentions none of these facts in his article of September 28. In fact, Oltermann evinces no scepticism that the political backlash would be too great if, indeed, the U.S. and/or its proxies had sabotaged Nord Stream.
Nord Stream has been at the heart of a standoff between Russia and Europe over energy supplies since the start of the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine, but it is not immediately clear who stands to benefit from the destruction of the gas infrastructure.
Several paragraphs earlier, Oltermann had revealed that a member of the Bundestag’s Foreign Affairs Committee had acknowledged that the U.S. and certain European states had an interest in preventing the activation of Nord Stream, yet it was “not immediately clear” to Oltermann who stands to benefit from the destruction of that infrastructure?
Oltermann then acknowledges that, in Germany, there had been calls recently “to open the pipeline as an energy crisis looms over Europe”, but he dismisses those calls as having come from “political parties on the far right and the far left.”
The reality is that, due to the inaccessibility of affordable Russian gas, Germany’s economy is now on the verge of collapse. That is why, immediately prior to the sabotage of Nord Stream, German protesters took to the streets to demand that Nord Stream be reopened and that a peaceful resolution of the Ukraine war be pursued.
Oltermann evidently believes that only Germans on the “far right” and “far left” are alarmed about the immense hardships that Germany’s economic collapse will inflict upon their families and millions of ordinary Germans.
On September 29, the day after the Guardian published Oltermann’s article, it published an editorial focused on the Russian Federation’s just-completed annexation of four Ukrainian oblasts. In that editorial, the Guardian’s editors wrote:
The annexations come alongside the mobilisation order, and, many believe, the damage to the Nord Stream pipelines (while Russia clearly appears the most plausible culprit, US intelligence has been notably cautious about ascribing blame).
Nowhere in the editorial, however, does the Guardian explain the basis for its claim that “Russia clearly appears the most plausible culprit”. Its editors do not offer a scintilla of evidence or logic to support their eye-popping claim that Russia may have blown up its own pipelines. Nor do they explain why U.S. intelligence would hesitate to accuse Russia of sabotage if Russia “clearly” was “the most plausible culprit”. When has U.S. intelligence been reluctant to level evidence-free accusations of criminality at Russia’s government?
Finally, on September 30, the Guardian published an article by Kate Connolly, the Guardian’s Berlin correspondent, entitled “Size of Nord Stream blasts equal to large amount of explosive, UN told”. Connolly wrote:
Intelligence sources quoted in the news magazine Spiegel believe the pipelines were hit in four places by explosions using 500kg of TNT, the equivalent to the explosive power of a heavy aircraft bomb. German investigators have undertaken seismic readings to calculate the power of the blasts.
The first signs of explosions were registered on Monday morning by a Danish earthquake station after suspicious activity in the waters of the Baltic Sea. A monitoring station on the Danish island of Bornholm measured severe tremors.
A representative of the Swedish coastguard told AFP: “There are two leaks on Swedish territory and two on the Danish side.”
It remains a mystery as to how the explosives reached the pipeline. According to initial reports, the explosions happened at depths of between 70 and 90 metres.
There has been speculation that mini submarines might have been used to deliver the explosives. However, the amount of explosives that would have been necessary to cause such large blasts make this theory increasingly unlikely.
Instead, experts are suggesting that maintenance robots operating within the pipeline structure may have planted the bombs during repair works.
If this theory proves to be right, the sophisticated nature of the attack as well as the power of the blast would add weight to suspicions that the attacks were carried out by a state power, with fingers pointed at Russia. Moscow has repeatedly underlined its capability to disrupt Europe’s energy infrastructure.
On Friday, Vladimir Putin blamed the US and its allies for blowing up the pipelines, raising the temperature in the crisis. Offering no evidence for his claim, the Russian president said in a speech to mark the annexation of four Ukrainian regions: “The sanctions were not enough for the Anglo-Saxons: they moved on to sabotage. It is hard to believe but it is a fact that they organised the blasts on the Nord Stream international gas pipelines.”
Three elements of Connolly’s report merit commentary.
First, who are “the experts” who suggest that maintenance robots operating within the pipeline may have planted bombs during maintenance? Connolly doesn’t tell us, nor does she explain why she omitted to reveal their identities. Are they government “experts”? Were they not authorized to speak publicly? If they were government experts, to what governments do they belong? Without this information, Connolly’s readers are unable to assess whether her sources do indeed have relevant expertise and are truly objective.
Second, Connolly claims that Moscow has repeatedly “underlined” its capability to disrupt Europe’s energy infrastructure. Really? I have never seen a threat from the Russian government to disrupt Europe’s energy infrastructure. If indeed the Russian government ever issued such a threat, then why doesn’t Connolly tell us when, how and by whom that threat was issued?
By contrast, the President of the United States explicitly threatened earlier this year to “bring an end” to Nord Stream if Russia invaded Ukraine. That threat was issued in a press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholtz:
What is most damning about Biden’s threat is his response to a reporter’s question about Germany. When the reporter points out to Biden that Germany – a supposedly key ally of the United States – is part-owner of Nord Stream, Biden doesn’t flinch. He simply disregards Germany’s stake in the project and declares (with the hapless, weak-kneed Scholz standing near him) “I promise you, we will be able” to bring Nord Stream to an end.
For the sake of appearances and diplomacy, Biden could have dissembled. He could have said something like “of course, we will consult with our German partners before taking any action to end Nord Stream” or “the decision about ending Nord Stream will be made jointly with the German government”. Yet Biden said no such thing, evidently believing that the whole world should know that Germany’s view of the matter was irrelevant to the U.S. government.
Connolly says nothing in her article about Biden’s recent, explicit threat to ‘bring an end’ to Nord Stream, but she does make an unsubstantiated claim that Moscow had “underlined” its capacity to disrupt Europe’s energy infrastructure.
Finally, Connolly reports that Putin blames “the Anglo-Saxons” – presumably, the British and Americans – for the Nord Stream sabotage.
Let us contemplate that fact for a moment.
If in fact Russia did not blow up its own pipelines, and if the Russian government is convinced that the British and Americans sabotaged Nord Stream, the world is likely heading toward a very dark place, both figuratively and literally. The Russian government is not likely to tolerate Western attacks on vitally important Russian energy infrastructure. Somehow, at some point, Russia is liable to retaliate against the West’s energy infrastructure. The disabling of key energy infrastructure may well have dire consequences for Western economies that are already reeling from a global energy crisis.
If one or more Western governments are behind the sabotage of Nord Stream, they have crossed a red line that will expose Western economies and citizens to heightened energy insecurity in the months and years ahead. They may well have hurt the West far more than they have hurt Russia.
The Case Against Russia
I am a lawyer. I was first called to the bar in the State of New York thirty years ago. For most of my career, I have specialized in class action litigation. Typically, on behalf of my clients, I’ve prosecuted claims of fraud and other forms of corporate wrongdoing. Often, the claims I advance involve potential criminality. The complex evidence underlying these claims must be assessed and interpreted with meticulous attention to detail, but also with a healthy dose of scepticism and common sense.
Like any case of potential criminality, I approach the question of who sabotaged Nord Stream like a lawyer. I bring to bear my experience litigating claims of wrongdoing. Among other things, I ask: who possessed a motive to commit the crime? Who had both the ability and the opportunity to carry it out? Are the protagonists and the witnesses marshalled for and against those protagonists credible? What do qualified experts say? Are those experts unbiased? Taking into account these and other considerations, what are the most rational inferences to be drawn from all available evidence?
Certainly, the Russian military possessed the capacity to destroy the Nord Stream pipelines, but what possible motive would it have to do so?
Gazprom, a fossil fuels behemoth that is controlled by the Russian state, invested over US$5 billion in Nord Stream 2. Moreover, had Russia wanted to stop the flow of gas to Europe through Nord Stream, all it had to do was turn off the gas taps in Russia. There was no need for Russia to destroy those pipelines and jeopardize a state-owned entity’s multi-billion-dollar investment.
As long as Nord Stream remained functional, the Russian government was able to offer an enticement to Germany to remove sanctions on Russia. As long as Nord Stream remains non-functional, Russia’s leverage over Germany is diminished considerably.
Moreover, it is questionable whether the Russian military had the opportunity to commit this sabotage.
The explosions occurred near Bornholm, a Danish island in the Baltic Sea. Bornholm is surrounded by states that are either members of NATO or have applied to join NATO (Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Poland). It is only 100 km from the Polish coastline.
NATO heavily monitors and effectively controls the western Baltic Sea, where the sabotage occurred. How could Russian saboteurs execute this challenging operation while escaping detection by NATO?
The Case Against the United States
Arguably, no government had a greater motivation to destroy Nord Stream than the United States government.
Joe Biden was by no means the first U.S. politician to express a desire to see Nord Stream terminated. For years, U.S. government officials have condemned Nord Stream 2 and have pressured Germany’s government to abandon the project.
Here are but a few examples.
In 2014, former U.S. Secretary of State and unrepentant war criminal Condoleeza Rice gave an interview in which she was asked whether Germany had been sufficiently “aggressive” with Russia. In response, Rice expressed her desire that Europe “depend more on the North American energy platform” and “the tremendous bounty of oil and gas we are finding in North America.” “You want to have pipelines that don’t go through Ukraine and Russia,” she added. “For years, we’ve tried to get the Europeans to be interested in different pipeline routes. It’s time to do that.”
In December 2021, as fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine intensified, Victoria Nuland, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, was questioned by Republican Senator Ron Johnson about the Biden administration’s plans for sanctioning Russia. Johnson prefaced his questions by noting that, despite their differences, Republicans and Democrats were united in their hostility to Russia. Johnson also stated that it was important to make Vladimir Putin understand how “harmful” U.S. sanctions would be to the “Russian people”. Then, after noting the Senate’s strong support for sanctions on Nord Stream, Johnson asked Nuland whether the Biden administration was contemplating sanctions that “would prevent Nord Stream 2 from ever being completed.” Nuland replied “absolutely”.
If Victoria Nuland is familiar to you, that might be due to her infamous 2014 conversation with U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt. A leaked recording of that conversation revealed that the U.S. government had handpicked the next Prime Minister of Ukraine in advance of a coup that overthrew Ukraine’s democratically elected President, Viktor Yanukovych. In Nuland’s conversation with Pyatt, Pyatt noted that E.U. officials did not agree with Washington’s choice for Ukraine’s next PM. In response, Nuland said to Pyatt “fuck the E.U.”
One cannot overstate the U.S. government’s contempt for the priorities of its European allies vassals.
Despite the extensive and unambiguous record of U.S. government hostility to Nord Stream, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken laughably claimed, on the day after the sabotage, that the destruction of Nord Stream was in “no one’s interest”. If that were true, why would anyone destroy it?
It took the dim-witted Blinken less than one week to publicly contradict himself. On October 2, he giddily declared in a press conference with Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly that the destruction of Nord Stream presented to the United States a “strategic” and “tremendous opportunity” to end Europe’s dependence on Russian gas.
Even in the absence of these and similar statements by U.S. officials, it would be obvious that the U.S. government has a motive to “bring an end” to Nord Stream.
The neocons who control U.S. government foreign policy covet, above all else, global hegemony. Maintaining U.S. global hegemony requires that the U.S. effect regime change in Russia and that it replace Russia’s nationalist government with a Yeltsin-like buffoon who will slavishly do the bidding of his American handlers. Only then will it be possible for the U.S. to isolate and ‘contain’ China, whose growing wealth and power is the primary impediment to U.S. hegemony. As long as the powerful German economy is closely intertwined with that of Russia, the U.S. government’s ability to undermine Russia’s economy will be limited.
Quite apart from that, the U.S. fossil fuels industry stands to gain enormously from the E.U.’s rejection of Russian fossil fuels. As Blinken acknowledged, U.S. gas producers are undoubtedly licking their chops at the “tremendous opportunity” created by Nord Stream’s destruction.
Not only did the U.S. have the motive to destroy Nord Stream, it had both the technological capability and the opportunity to do so.
The site of the sabotage lies in waters that are effectively controlled by NATO.
According to Flightradar24 data, U.S. military helicopters habitually and on numerous occasions circled for hours over the site of the Nord Stream sabotage near Bornholm Island earlier in September.
Moreover, in June of this year, the U.S. military conducted the BALTOPS naval exercise off the coast of Bornholm to demonstrate NATO’s mine hunting capabilities. According to an official publication of the Navy League of the United States, this exercise was used as “an opportunity to test emerging technology”:
In support of BALTOPS, U.S. Navy 6th Fleet partnered with U.S. Navy research and warfare centers to bring the latest advancements in unmanned underwater vehicle mine hunting technology to the Baltic Sea to demonstrate the vehicle’s effectiveness in operational scenarios.
Experimentation was conducted off the coast of Bornholm, Denmark, with participants from Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific, Naval Undersea Warfare Center Newport, and Mine Warfare Readiness and Effectiveness Measuring all under the direction of U.S. 6th Fleet Task Force 68.
By contrast, I’m aware of no reports of the presence of Russian military assets at or near the site of sabotage in the months leading up to the incident. (If you have seen such reports, I encourage you to share them with me.)
Immediately before the explosions that disabled Nord Stream, German protesters had taken to the streets to call for the reopening of Nord Stream in the face of skyrocketing energy bills. What better way to prevent the German government from acceding to public pressure than making it impossible for Nord Stream to deliver gas to Germany?
Of course, this circumstantial evidence does not prove definitively that the U.S. military or a proxy acting with the consent and support of the U.S. government sabotaged Nord Stream, nor does it disprove definitively that Russia sabotaged its own pipelines.
Nonetheless, the totality of the circumstantial evidence makes a mockery of claims by the Guardian and other pro-NATO, Western media outlets that Russia is ‘the most plausible culprit’.
By any rational measure, the United States government is, by a wide margin, ‘the most plausible culprit’.
Another plausible culprit is Poland.
Not only is Poland closer to the site of the sabotage than Russia, Poland’s government is intensely hostile to Russia.
Poland’s government detests the Nord Stream pipelines. Using highly undiplomatic language against a fellow NATO and E.U. member, the Polish government has repeatedly castigated Germany’s government for the Nord Stream project. In 2021, for example, it accused Germany of forming a “brutal alliance” with Russia against the interests of other European states.
Shortly after the sabotage was revealed, Radek Sikorski, the former foreign and defence minister of Poland, tweeted an image of natural gas spewing from the site of the Nord Stream sabotage, along with the words “Thank you, USA.” He quickly deleted the tweet after it went viral.
It may well be that Poland played a role in the attacks on Nord Stream, but it is difficult to imagine that it would commit a crime of this magnitude without the consent and support of the U.S. government, NATO’s dominant member.
Where do we go from here?
Danish and Swedish authorities are reportedly conducting an investigation into the Nord Stream attacks. The Kremlin claims that it has not been invited to participate in the investigation, while Nord Stream operators say that they were unable to inspect the damaged sections of the pipelines because of restrictions imposed by Danish and Swedish authorities who had cordoned off the area.
Denmark is a member of NATO, while Sweden has applied for NATO membership.
If Germany was a truly sovereign state, its government would demand an independent, international investigation into the attacks on Nord Stream.
Moreover, no investigation supervised by a NATO or a wannabe-NATO government could be truly independent, especially if Russian authorities have been excluded from the investigation. All NATO states, and particularly NATO’s most powerful member (the U.S.), have a strong interest in pointing the finger at Russia.
The fact that Germany’s government has not demanded a truly independent investigation speaks volumes about Germany’s supposed sovereignty, but the German government’s feeble response should surprise no one. At the behest of their masters in Washington, German ‘leaders’ committed their country to economic suicide months ago.
Sooner or later, however, the truth about Nord Stream may well emerge. If it is ultimately demonstrated that the United States or a U.S. proxy attacked Nord Stream, and did so at a moment when Germany’s economy is collapsing under the weight of an energy crisis, the consequences will be enormous, not only for Russia’s relations with the West, but also for Germany’s (and the E.U.’s) relations with the United States and NATO.
Indeed, the Nord Stream sabotage may ultimately prove to be one of the most consequential crimes of the twenty-first century. If the U.S. committed the crime, Western media will have played a key role in protecting the criminals who did it.
I leave you with this video clip of an October 3, 2022 interview of Professor Jeffrey Sachs, former director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. When Dr. Sachs has the temerity to suggest that the U.S. government is behind the Nord Stream sabotage, two Bloomberg reporters freak out and attempt, unsuccessfully, to shut him down. (Check out his priceless facial expression when the Bloomberg reporters lose it.)