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One year later, why is the Nord Stream attack still a mystery?

One year later, why is the Nord Stream attack still a mystery?

As investigations appear to get too close for comfort, mainstream interest in the story has waned.

Europe

After news of the reported explosions on the Nord Stream pipelines broke a year ago today, the media was ablaze with speculation, mostly in the direction of the Russian government.

“Everything is pointing to Russia,” blared a POLITICO headline two days after the explosions. Quoted in the piece were a number of foreign commentators including the former president of the German Federal Intelligence Service, saying that only Russia had the means and motives to do it.

“We still don’t know 100 percent that Russia was responsible,” said Olga Khakova, deputy director for European energy security at the Atlantic Council. “But everything is pointing to Russia being behind this.” U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm told BBC on Sept. 30 that it "seems" Russia was was behind the sabotage.

By October the Washington Post Editorial Board was raising the alarms about more attacks against “the West.”

"This is the kind of capability usually wielded by a state actor, though NATO did not say officially what everyone suspects unofficially: The author of this strike against Europe’s stability and security was Russia. Now, the United States and its allies must meet a new challenge: threats to critical infrastructure, just as they are about to try to get through winter without Russian oil and gas."

Aside from a Twitter-impulsive former Polish foreign minister gleefully suggesting the U.S. did it, the mainstream media commentariat had no inhibitions about openly blaming Russia through the fall of 2022.

A year later, however, the world still does not know “who done it.” Some critics suggest the probes may be getting into politically uncomfortable territory, with recent German reports pointing to a Ukrainian military connection to the blasts.

“Whether it’s instinctive or by direction, there is a clear attempt to simply bury this story completely,” said Anatol Lieven, the director of the Quincy Institute’s Eurasia Program, comparing the seeming lack of U.S. media interest to George Orwell’s “memory hole” in the novel “1984.”

“Obviously that is because the main theories that have been advanced for the responsibility of the sabotage, if true, would be imminently embarrassing for Western governments.”

Germany, Denmark, and Sweden have been conducting separate investigations. In a joint statement on Sept. 30, Denmark and Sweden told the United Nations Security Council in a letter that the leaks were caused by at least two detonations with "several hundred kilos" of explosives. By late last year, however, European sources were quietly dismissing Russia’s role in what was being deemed as a sabotage, saying there was “no conclusive evidence” that would lead to Moscow.

Since then there has been reporting by Sy Hersh that the United States coordinated the attacks, using a secret expert U.S. Navy diving team. This was largely ignored, refuted and scoffed at by the mainstream media and officials in the West. Soon after, it was revealed that German investigators were pursuing a second theory: that it was the work of a pro-Ukrainian outfit, either rogue or Ukrainian government-connected. Swedish investigators believe, by the way, that the attack could only be the work of a state actor.

Leaked CIA documents earlier this year show that the U.S. had intelligence that the “Ukrainian military had planned a covert attack on the undersea network, using a small team of divers who reported directly to the commander in chief of the Ukrainian armed forces,” at least three months before the actual explosions. What we don’t know is if the Ukrainians actually went through with it, though at least one unnamed U.S. official said the CIA “warned” Ukraine not to.

Most recently, an exhaustive investigation by 19 Der Spiegel writers reported that all roads were indeed leading to Ukraine. At least that is what German investigators are telling them. From their report Aug. 28:

Investigators from the BKA (Federal Criminal Police Office), the Federal Police and the Office of the Federal Prosecutor have few remaining doubts that a Ukrainian commando was responsible for blowing up the pipelines. A striking number of clues point to Ukraine, they say.

And the possible motives also seem clear to international security circles: The aim, they say, was to deprive Moscow of an important source of revenue for financing the war against Ukraine. And at the same time to deprive Putin once and for all of his most important instrument of blackmail against the German government.

How far up the chain it goes nobody yet knows, or if other state actors were involved. After the story of the CIA leaks, Zelensky vehemently denied the charges.

"I am president and I give orders accordingly," he said. "Nothing of the sort has been done by Ukraine.”

But the mystery continues and there seems to be no urgency — save for Der Spiegel’s intensive reporting — to push the issue further, at least in the U.S. press. That’s likely because, as Lieven and others contend, there is no political gain, only embarrassment if the U.S. is behind the attack, as Hersh alleges, or Ukraine is, as the German inquiry seems to be unraveling. For his part, Russian President Putin believes the U.S, not Ukraine, is the culprit. Others, including the German defense minister have suggested the Kyiv theory is a “false flag” to blame Ukraine.

“It seems very strange” that NATO governments, with their massive intelligence capabilities — particularly Washington’s global reach — “seem unable to get to the bottom of this,” Jacobin reporter Branko Marcetic tells RS.

“But even stranger still is the seeming lack of Interest and discussion from these countries’ various media establishments and politicians, about an attack that destroyed a major piece of a NATO ally’s infrastructure.”

To be fair, as Der Spiegel notes, the German investigators “cannot conduct investigations in Ukraine, and it isn't expected that Kyiv will provide much support. The German authorities have also shied away from submitting a request to Ukraine for legal assistance because doing so would require that they reveal what they know.”

Meanwhile, who has benefited from the permanent shutdown of Nord Stream 1 (the EU was importing 35 percent of its natural gas from this pipeline until it was shut off after the invasion) and Nord Stream 2 never going online (which the U.S. had swore would never happen)?

“The United States without a question (has benefited),” asserts Lieven. “It made it much more difficult for Germany to ever move back into an intensive energy relationship with Russia and made German and other European countries even more permanently dependent on imports of liquified natural gas from the United States.”

Nord Stream pipelines, which run from Russia to Germany, are majority owned (51 percent) by Russian Gazprom, along with German, Dutch and French stakeholders. In 2022, Europe became the primary destination for U.S. LNG exports in 2022, according to the Energy Information Association, accounting for 64 percent of total exports. Four countries — France, the U.K., Spain, and the Netherlands — accounted for a combined 74 percent of those exports.

Aside from the U.S., Germany is also getting gas supplies from Norway and the Gulf States. Meanwhile the West’s break from Russian energy beyond the Nord Stream rupture has done serious damage to the German economy.

But the torrent of responses after the Sept. 26 attack blamed Russia because, as was the line, Moscow wanted to strike fear into the West. President Putin did it because Moscow was “weaponizing energy” and that it was “desperate.” None of that has been walked back and without any real attention to what really happened, no one truly feels the need to.

In fact, in its own anniversary recollections, the Washington Post barely mentions that this narrative was repeated for another month after the explosions.

“Whether or not that's the full story is hard to say at this point,” Marcetic said, pointing to the Ukrainian connection, “but the fact that a state that is receiving unprecedented levels of military and financial support from NATO has been accused of carrying out an attack on a NATO ally is obviously significant. Yet this is another data point in this war that many clearly would rather not discuss or acknowledge even as it pertains directly to burning issues like Ukraine's possible entry into the alliance.”

The mystery, as they say, remains unsolved.

(a2iStokker/Shutterstock image)(9/26/22 Nord Stream pipeline explosion/Reuters)

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