The decade's most triggering comedy
The pipelines, which carried natural gas under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany, had been the center of geopolitical strife before and after the invasion of Ukraine. Russia nixed shipments through Nord Stream 1 months into the conflict as a retaliatory measure against Western Europe, while Germany blocked the adjacent Nord Stream 2 from initiating shipments days before the war started. Sweden and Denmark reported severe damage to the pipelines in September as natural gas spewed toward the surface of the Baltic Sea.
Seymour Hersh, an investigative journalist who won a Pulitzer Prize for exposing the clandestine My Lai Massacre during the Vietnam War, said in an article published on Wednesday that Navy divers planted remotely triggered explosives on the Nord Stream pipelines during widely publicized training exercises over the summer. The report, which was based on the testimony of an unnamed source, claimed that President Joe Biden viewed the pipelines as an avenue through which Russian President Vladimir Putin could weaponize his country’s natural gas supply for his territorial ambitions.
Biden threatened last year that “there will no longer be a Nord Stream 2” if Russia crossed the Ukrainian border and insisted to a journalist that “we will be able” to bring an “end” to the system. The commander-in-chief initially waived sanctions against the Russian-owned company behind Nord Stream 2, although he reimposed sanctions shortly before the invasion started.
White House spokesperson Adrienne Watson said the notion that the United States destroyed the pipelines was “false and complete fiction,” while CIA spokesperson Tammy Thorp said the claim was “completely and utterly false” when asked for comment by Hersh. Some European officials said Russia may have destroyed its own pipelines; others blamed the United States.
Top national security officials and military brass had reportedly agreed that the United States should destroy the Nord Stream pipelines, but debated for months over the best method for accomplishing the objective, according to Hersh. Biden administration leadership eventually turned to Navy divers who had been trained at a school in Florida to use explosives while executing assignments such as clearing debris-filled harbors and destroying foreign oil rigs.
While officials in the Navy suggested assaulting the pipeline with a submarine and officials in the Air Force suggested dropping bombs with delayed remote control fuses, CIA officials emphasized that the action would have to be utterly covert. “This is not kiddie stuff,” the source told Hersh, noting that the attack would constitute “an act of war” if traced to the United States.
After the Nord Stream pipelines were destroyed last year, Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the phenomenon a “tremendous opportunity” to end European reliance on Russian energy supplies. Even though the pipelines were not pumping natural gas, protesters in Germany had been calling for the energy flow to resume as electricity prices increased more than twentyfold. Crippling the pipelines eliminated the possibility of Germany lifting sanctions in time to import natural gas for the winter.