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The sabotage of the Nord Stream: five months of suspicions and conspiracy theories


German, Danish and Swedish investigations into Baltic gas pipeline explosions remain under strict secrecy

On September 26, 2022, a series of explosions and subsequent underwater natural gas leaks were recorded in the Nord Stream gas pipelines, which transported this hydrocarbon from Russia to Germany through the bed of the Baltic Sea.

Someone – a state actor, experts agree in their suspicion – placed explosive charges to blow up a critical energy infrastructure in the middle of Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine and with the world at maximum tension.

A sabotage of a scope that has not been seen since World War II and whose authorship, after five months, remains unknown.

The silence of the countries that have investigations underway is absolute.

The governments of Germany, Denmark and Sweden assure that they continue to work and that the investigations are in the hands of independent bodies.

When they reach conclusions, they will make them public, they insist.

Meanwhile, the passing of months without official data fuels hypotheses and conspiracy theories.

The main suspect for the governments involved and for many of the analysts who have studied the sabotage is Russia, but so far no one has dared to formally accuse Moscow of ordering the blowing up of the pipelines.

The Kremlin denies this and points to the West.

First he accused the British Navy, but now, after the publication of the theory by a well-known American journalist, Seymour Hersh, he assures that it was the United States with the collaboration of Norway.

The hypothesis of Ukraine's participation, on the basis that, like Washington, it would be the main beneficiary of the attack, is also moving on social networks and among some prestigious analysts, such as Ian Bremmer, founder and president of Eurasia Group.

What is known?

Sweden is for the moment the one that has given the most information, although it is still scarce.

Investigators found traces of explosive in several objects found on the bed of the Baltic Sea, which allows them to affirm without any doubt that it was “blatant sabotage”.

But the investigations are "complex and extensive", as the Swedish prosecutor in charge of the case, Mats Ljungqvist, has said.

In Germany, the investigation is in the hands of the Prosecutor's Office and the Federal Criminal Police Office, which handles cases of espionage and terrorism.

“Until now they haven't had to do their work at sea,” says Julian Pawlak, an analyst at the German Institute for Defense and Strategic Studies (GIDS).

They depend on Navy ships to go out to investigate and the tests are 70 meters deep, he adds to explain why the process is so arduous and slow.

“Every day that passes, the scenery changes due to the currents and the conditions that occur down there,” he points out.

The nature of the investigations, which include intelligence data, also explains the secrecy.

Western states do not want to reveal what technology they use to monitor the Baltic Sea, what sensors or other military equipment they have deployed in such a sensitive area for European security.

That is why the investigations are carried out individually and a joint investigation was ruled out from the beginning.

There is information that, with a war going on on the continent, cannot be shared even with the allies.

There is another key element.

No capital is going to point fingers unless he has solid evidence and conspiracy theories, a lesson learned from the investigations into the downing of the MH-17 plane over eastern Ukraine.

Furthermore, if evidence is produced, consequences should be drawn from it, security expert Niklas Rossbach of the Swedish Defense Research Agency said on German public television: “The West does not want to appear weak by naming a culprit and not after punishment options”.

Meanwhile, secrecy favors speculation.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov used Hersh's article to spread the narrative that the West is deliberately hiding evidence to cover up that he is the real perpetrator.

A line similar to the one he maintained with the case of the MH-17, which finally turned out to have been shot down from the area of ​​the pro-Russian separatists with a missile provided by Russia.

Hersh's thesis is that American divers planted the explosives in June during NATO exercises in the Baltic, and the Norwegian Navy detonated them three months later, but he does not provide any evidence.

Washington called his account "completely false" and "total fabrication," as did Norway.

Hersh mentions only one source, an anonymous one, and different experts have debunked several of the claims he makes in the article.

There are doubts about the type of explosives he says was used and about the boats used, which were not in the area when the sabotage is alleged to have been carried out.

"The article includes so many inconsistencies and unproven claims that, in my opinion, it has already received too much attention," Pawlak ditch.

Specialized analysts, European and NATO sources agree that sabotage is a perfect example of hybrid warfare, with attacks on physical infrastructures with the aim of destabilizing and causing chaos.

They will never be recognized, precisely to continue generating confusion and incessant alternative theories.

Without solid evidence, it will be difficult to point to a culprit.

The German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, was asked this week on a television program and he answered like this: "You can suspect who blew up the gas pipeline, but although everyone present probably thinks the same, you should not fall into speculation."

High alert and a Russian spy ship

The sabotage of the Nord Stream put the countries bordering the Baltic, and NATO as a whole, on high alert, which rushed to improve the protection of their critical infrastructure.

Since the explosions there have been suspicions that Russia could attack other gas pipelines, such as the one in Norway, or submarine telecommunications cables.

This week the Dutch intelligence agency has detected a Russian spy ship that has been trying for months to map the country's energy infrastructure in the North Sea.

According to the authorities, he had the mission of carrying out "sabotage operations."

Norway gave a similar warning last week in its annual security assessment.

Although he notes that it is "unlikely" that Norwegian assets will be sabotaged this year, it could happen if Moscow decides to escalate the conflict in Ukraine: "The oil sector is a particularly vulnerable target," he noted.

The Nord Stream pipelines had been at the center of intense geopolitical tensions since long before the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Moscow's decision to use hydrocarbons as a weapon against Europe and in retaliation for Western sanctions led to the interruption of gas supplies to countries that are highly dependent on it, such as Germany.

The Nord Stream 1 had not carried gas since the end of August.

The Nord Stream 2 never came into operation.

Germany suspended its certification in February, three days before Russia began its invasion of Ukraine, in response to Putin's recognition of the independence of pro-Russian breakaway regions.

The sabotage affected three of the four Nord Stream pipelines - each gas pipeline has a double line - so that one of the branches, Nord Stream 2, is theoretically still operational.

Gazprom, the Kremlin's energy arm, suggested to Germany last October that it could send gas back through that branch if necessary.

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Source: elparis

All news articles on 2023-02-27

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