by WorldTribune Staff, February 8, 2023
The New York Times claims it’s a “mystery.” Some on the Left insist it was Russia that blew up its own natural gas pipelines.
What really happened to the Nord Stream pipelines?
“The United States executed a covert sea operation that was kept secret — until now,” investigative journalist Seymour Hersh noted in a substack.com analysis on Wednesday.
The U.S. Navy’s Diving and Salvage Center “has been training highly skilled deep-water divers for decades who, once assigned to American military units worldwide, are capable of technical diving to do the good — using C4 explosives to clear harbors and beaches of debris and unexploded ordinance — as well as the bad, like blowing up foreign oil rigs, fouling intake valves for undersea power plants, destroying locks on crucial shipping canals,” Hersh wrote.
The Navy center, located in Panama City, Florida, “boasts the second largest indoor pool in America,” Hersh notes, adding that it “was the perfect place to recruit the best, and most taciturn, graduates of the diving school who successfully did last summer what they had been authorized to do 260 feet under the surface of the Baltic Sea.”
Citing a source with direct knowledge of the operational planning, Hersh reported that, in June of 2022, “the Navy divers, operating under the cover of a widely publicized mid-summer NATO exercise known as BALTOPS 22, planted the remotely triggered explosives that, three months later, destroyed three of the four Nord Stream pipelines.”
White House National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson termed the report “complete fiction,” as did a Central Intelligence Agency spokesperson who called it “completely and utterly false.”
Hersh is an investigative reporter who covered Watergate for the New York Times, exposed the My Lai massacre and has broken numerous exclusives on the U.S. military, winning five George Polk awards and one George Orwell award.
Two of the pipelines, which were known collectively as Nord Stream 1, had been providing Germany and much of Western Europe with cheap Russian natural gas for more than a decade. A second pair of pipelines, called Nord Stream 2, had been built but were not yet operational.
“Now, with Russian troops massing on the Ukrainian border and the bloodiest war in Europe since 1945 looming,” Joe Biden’s team “saw the pipelines as a vehicle for Vladimir Putin to weaponize natural gas for his political and territorial ambitions,” Hersh wrote.
The Biden team’s decision “to sabotage the pipelines came after more than nine months of highly secret back and forth debate inside Washington’s national security community about how to best achieve that goal. For much of that time, the issue was not whether to do the mission, but how to get it done with no overt clue as to who was responsible,” Hersh wrote.
Using graduates of the Navy diving school in Panama City was a key move.
“The divers were Navy only, and not members of America’s Special Operations Command, whose covert operations must be reported to Congress and briefed in advance to the Senate and House leadership — the so-called Gang of Eight,” Hersh noted. “The Biden Administration was doing everything possible to avoid leaks as the planning took place late in 2021 and into the first months of 2022.”
Biden and his foreign policy team — National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and Victoria Nuland, the Undersecretary of State for Policy — “had been vocal and consistent in their hostility to the two pipelines,” Hersh noted.
The pipelines ran side by side for 750 miles under the Baltic Sea from two different ports in northeastern Russia near the Estonian border, passing close to the Danish island of Bornholm before ending in northern Germany.
On Feb. 7, 2022, less than three weeks before the seemingly inevitable Russian invasion of Ukraine, Biden met in his White House office with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. At the press briefing that followed, Biden said, “If Russia invades . . . there will be no longer a Nord Stream 2. We will bring an end to it.”
In January of 2022, Nuland said at a State Department briefing which was widely unreported: “I want to be very clear to you today,” she said in response to a question. “If Russia invades Ukraine, one way or another Nord Stream 2 will not move forward.”
When it came time to make good on Team Biden’s vows to destroy the pipeline, Hersh noted:
“The C4 attached to the pipelines would be triggered by a sonar buoy dropped by a plane on short notice, but the procedure involved the most advanced signal processing technology. Once in place, the delayed timing devices attached to any of the four pipelines could be accidentally triggered by the complex mix of ocean background noises throughout the heavily trafficked Baltic Sea—from near and distant ships, underwater drilling, seismic events, waves and even sea creatures. To avoid this, the sonar buoy, once in place, would emit a sequence of unique low frequency tonal sounds—much like those emitted by a flute or a piano—that would be recognized by the timing device and, after a pre-set hours of delay, trigger the explosives. (‘You want a signal that is robust enough so that no other signal could accidentally send a pulse that detonated the explosives,’ I was told by Dr. Theodore Postol, professor emeritus of science, technology and national security policy at MIT. Postol, who has served as the science adviser to the Pentagon’s Chief of Naval Operations, said the issue facing the group in Norway because of Biden’s delay was one of chance: ‘The longer the explosives are in the water the greater risk there would be of a random signal that would launch the bombs.’ “)
On Sept. 26, 2022, a Norwegian Navy P8 surveillance plane made a seemingly routine flight and dropped a sonar buoy. The signal spread underwater, initially to Nord Stream 2 and then on to Nord Stream 1. A few hours later, the high-powered C4 explosives were triggered and three of the four pipelines were put out of commission.
“Within a few minutes, pools of methane gas that remained in the shuttered pipelines could be seen spreading on the water’s surface and the world learned that something irreversible had taken place,” Hersh wrote.
The U.S. media quickly went to work to paint Russia as the likely culprit, “spurred on by calculated leaks from the White House—but without ever establishing a clear motive for such an act of self-sabotage, beyond simple retribution,” Hersh wrote.
A few months later, when it emerged that Russian authorities had been quietly getting estimates for the cost to repair the pipelines, The New York Times described the news as “complicating theories about who was behind” the attack. Big Media ignored the earlier threats to the pipelines made by Biden Nuland.
“While it was never clear why Russia would seek to destroy its own lucrative pipeline, a more telling rationale” for Team Biden’s action came from Blinken, Hersh noted.
Asked at a press conference last September about the consequences of the worsening energy crisis in Western Europe, Blinken described the moment as a potentially good one: “It’s a tremendous opportunity to once and for all remove the dependence on Russian energy and thus to take away from Vladimir Putin the weaponization of energy as a means of advancing his imperial designs. That’s very significant and that offers tremendous strategic opportunity for the years to come, but meanwhile we’re determined to do everything we possibly can to make sure the consequences of all of this are not borne by citizens in our countries or, for that matter, around the world.”
More recently, Victoria Nuland expressed satisfaction at the demise of the newest of the pipelines. Testifying at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in late January she told Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, “Like you, I am, and I think the administration is, very gratified to know that Nord Stream 2 is now, as you like to say, a hunk of metal at the bottom of the sea.”
Hersh’s source, asked why the Russians failed to respond, said: “Maybe they want the capability to do the same things the U.S. did. It was a beautiful cover story. Behind it was a covert operation that placed experts in the field and equipment that operated on a covert signal. The only flaw was the decision to do it.”
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