Seymour Hersh is a prominent US investigative, Pulitzer Prize winning, journalist. He has claimed in a recently, self-published, article on Substack, “How America took out the Nord Stream Pipeline,” that US Navy divers destroyed three of four Russian gas Nord Stream pipelines under the Baltic Sea last September in a CIA operation ordered by President Joe Biden. The White House described the report as “false and complete fiction.”
Seymour Hersh won his Pulitzer Prize for exposing the My Lai Massacre in Vietnam by US troops in 1969. He has since exposed the Abu Ghraib tortures of Iraqis by US soldiers in 2004, the killing of an unarmed Bin Laden with Pakistani collusion in 2011, the sarin gas attack by Syrian rebels, not soldiers of the Syrian regime, in Damascus in 2013 and many others.
Hersh writes: “Last June, 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 according to a source with direct knowledge of the operational planning….President Joseph Biden saw the pipelines as a vehicle for Vladimir Putin to weaponize natural gas for his political and territorial ambitions.” The decision to destroy the pipelines came after nine months of highly secretive discussions among representatives of the intelligence agencies.
The Biden Administration made no secret of its ambitions for, or delight after, the bombing. President Biden at a press conference said: “If Russia invades…there will no longer be a Nord Stream 2. We’ll bring an end to it.” Victoria Nuland, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, had said earlier: “If Russia invades Ukraine, one way or another Nord Stream 2 will not move forward.” After the explosion she said that the Administration is gratified that Nord Stream 2 is “a hunk of metal at the bottom of the sea.” Secretary of State Blinken said the blowing up of the pipeline was, once and for all, an opportunity to move away from dependence on Russian energy. All of this does not prove that it was the US that blew up the pipeline, but the hints and the ex post facto glee could hardly be disguised.
The Nord Stream pipelines comprising 1 and 2, of two pipes each, were conceived in 1997 to convey gas from Russia to Germany. The construction of Nord Stream 1 was completed in August 2011 and gas began to be pumped in September 2011. It supplies cheap natural gas to Germany which resells some of it to Western Europe at a profit. Nord Stream 2 was built but not yet operational. They run for 750 miles under the Baltic Sea. The pipelines are owned by a holding company named Gazprom AG. A consortium of Gazprom, a publicly traded Russian company owned by oligarchs, owning 51 percent, and a consortium of four European energy firms, two German, one French and one Dutch, owned 49 percent.
The spot chosen, according to Hersh, was in the shallow, 260 feet deep, waters of the Baltic Sea off Denmark’s Bornholm Island with the advantage of there being no major tidal currents. The US Navy’s obscure deep-diving group, operating out of Panama City, Florida, carried out the operation on behalf of the CIA by placing C4 explosives on the four pipelines, each 2 separated by a mile with a protective, concrete, covering. “They are the best divers with deep diving qualifications,” said Hersh.
The cover for the operation was a NATO exercise in the Baltic Sea which had been conducted every year for 21 years. It was due to be led in June and to be known as Baltic Operations 22 or BALTOPS 22. To disguise the operation, it was made public that the at-sea event would be held off the coast of the Bornholm Island and involve NATO teams of divers planting mines with competing teams using the latest underwater technology to find and destroy them. The bombs were duly placed and, at the request of President Biden, a timer was installed that could be triggered at a time in the future, when he so chooses, by a sonar device emitting soundwaves.
The destruction of the pipeline has damaged the Russian economy but not nearly to the extent that had been hoped by the US. On IMF figures, the Russian GDP fell 3 points last year, but it is expected to show modest growth next year. At the same time the era of cheap gas to Germany and Western Europe, a product of decades of German Ostpolitik policy of opening up to the East and to Russia, has come to an end.
Seymour Hersh said in interviews that one of the reasons for bombing of the Nord Stream Pipeline was to remove the possibility of Germany later declaring, if the war with Ukraine continues, that it would resume purchasing gas from Russia when its people and economy began to be adversely affected by shortages. He feels that NATO could not remain unaffected by these developments in the future.