Nord Stream 2 pipeline sabotage
US officials have disclosed new intelligence reporting that claim a pro-Ukrainian group was responsible for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline sabotage in September of last year. Though it is very unlikely a non-state actor was responsible, nothing is impossible, according to the CEO of a consultancy firm.
New intelligence reporting on who may have been responsible for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline sabotage was confirmed by US officials, who relayed a summary to media outlets. The US officials said the intelligence suggests the sabotage was carried out by a pro-Ukrainian group, though they noted there is much that is still not known.
The officials declined to provide any more information on the intelligence, such as from what country it originated.
Responsibility for the sabotage has been hard to determine, with group claiming responsibility and European governments remaining tight-lipped. An official joint investigation by Germany, Denmark, and Sweden (in whose territory the pipelines lie) has not yet concluded and it is not clear when or if the information gleaned will be made public.
Veteran US investigative journalist Seymour Hersh claimed it was carried out by a secretive Navy diving operation directly ordered by President Joe Biden. Both the US and European Union have adamantly denied such claims, though the vocal US opposition to the pipelines serves as a compelling motive for some observers.
In the days following the attack, the Russian government blamed actors from the UK, though offering no proof to back this up. The US pointed the finger back, making the claim that the Russians blew up their own pipeline as some sort of false flag attack, though Western leaders rescinded this dubious theory very shortly after.
In an interview with German public broadcaster DW, Justin Crump, CEO of UK-based risk analysis consultancy Sibylline, said that an attack from a non-state actor was very unlikely due to the sophisticated technical and logistic capabilities required for such an operation.
Crump prefaced his statements by noting that no one knows for certain who was responsible and that there are currently many disparate theories circulating.
“It was almost the least likely explanation that a non-state group of actors were able to smuggle a very sizable quantity of explosives undetected and get that to the scene to target this incredibly important pipeline,” said Crump. “It was always the hardest to see being done, but it was never impossible.”
Powerful Russian citizens, many of whom had their businesses wrecked by the crushing sanctions that followed Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, may be organizing such sabotages, according to Crump.
“Lots of very wealthy, influential and networked people would have political and financial reasons to potentially undermine Putin’s war effort,” said Crump.
High profile sabotages against the Russian state have been increasing, with some claims of responsibility from partisans that oppose the war.
Oligarchs have long pulled the strings in politics in Russia and high stakes power plays are often going on behind the scenes.
On the other hand, however, the theory that the Ukrainian military had a hand in the sabotage is not widely seen as credible. The Ukrainian government has denied any involvement and Putin himself called it “sheer nonsense” that they could have carried out the attack, instead pointing to the Americans.
“I do believe it is unlikely, at this point, that the Ukrainian government was involved,” said Crump.
The Ukrainian government has been exercising a great amount of caution when it comes to covert operations and attacks outside of their territory. That has reportedly been at the behest of the US government, which is eager to avoid accelerating any internal destabilisation in Russia that could spill over and ignite a more serious conflict between NATO and Russia.
Cutting off Russian gas has made energy prices increase in the European Union. Though a mild winter and strategic supplies of gas have made the short term less disastrous than expected, energy prices are expected to remain elevated.
Media reports based on information from unnamed US officials have been criticised in the past as akin to publicising rumours.
One US outlet called this disclosure a case of ‘narrative laundering’, pointing to other cases in which the US government planted a particular narrative in the media by claiming intelligence that does not actually exist and for which they provide no proof.