BERLIN – Western allies have cautioned against reaching hasty conclusions regarding the perpetrators behind the Nord Stream pipeline blasts, with Germany suggesting that it could have been a “false flag” operation intended to blame Ukraine. Investigations are still underway to determine the cause of the Nord Stream pipelines’ rupture and the spew of natural gas into the Baltic Sea in September 2022. Western countries have acknowledged that the explosions were deliberate but have yet to establish who was responsible.
A New York Times report, citing US officials’ intelligence reviews, suggested that a pro-Ukrainian group may have carried out the attacks that have heightened tensions between Russia and the West. The report, while not pointing fingers at Ukrainian officials, comes at a time when Kyiv is urging Western allies to increase supplies of high-end weapons to repel Russian forces as the war in Ukraine enters its second year.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg emphasized the need to wait for the ongoing national investigations to be finalized before attributing blame for the pipeline blasts. The German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said that investigators need to make a clear distinction between whether it was a Ukrainian group, a pro-Ukrainian group acting without government knowledge, or a false flag operation staged to blame Ukraine.
The Russian government has seized on the news to demand a transparent investigation in which it also wants to participate. Meanwhile, the European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has maintained that drawing conclusions while investigations are ongoing would be inappropriate.
In February 2023, journalist Seymour Hersh published an article on Substack claiming that the sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines was carried out by the US Navy, the CIA, and the Norwegian Navy, under the direct order of President Biden. The report relied on an anonymous source who stated that US Navy divers placed explosive C4 charges on the pipelines at strategic locations selected by the Norwegians. The charges were detonated remotely three months later by a signal from a sonar buoy dropped by a Norwegian P-8 surveillance plane.
However, the New York Times report stated that there is no evidence of Ukrainian government involvement in the blasts, and Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said that the media reports were “a little bit strange” and had “nothing to do” with the Ukrainian government. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov suggested that the media reports were a coordinated attempt to divert attention and questioned how US officials could assume anything about the attacks without an investigation.
The US intelligence review suggested that those who carried out the attacks opposed Russian President Vladimir Putin but did not specify the members of the group or who directed or paid for the operation. Officials who have reviewed the intelligence said they believed the saboteurs were most likely Ukrainian or Russian nationals or some combination of the two. While German authorities have not yet found any evidence, investigators discovered traces of explosives on the yacht that the group took from Rostock, Germany, on Sept. 6. Reuters could not independently verify the information.
Russia presented a draft resolution to the UN Security Council last month, asking for an international investigation into the Nord Stream pipeline blasts. – Reuters