On Monday, leaks were discovered in the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipelines. The gas within the 750-mile-long pipeline is boiling to the surface, and there have been warnings that this could represent a serious threat to efforts to reduce spills of greenhouse gases. However, the Danish Energy Agency reports that most of the gas is already depleted as the damaged pipeline fills with seawater.
Almost immediately, U.S. intelligence agencies indicated that this was likely an act of sabotage. On Tuesday, Sweden revealed that seismographs in the area had detected a pair of disturbances that are now thought to be explosions. The E.U. joined the U.S. on Wednesday in calling what happened “the result of a deliberate act.” Naturally, pro-Russian sources—including right-wing media in the United States—has a suspect. They are pushing a series of clips and statements suggesting that America did it.
But the best suspect for who took down Russia’s gas pipeline to Europe is the same nation who constantly sabotaged that pipeline in the past. Which is Russia.
As CNN reports, the U.S. had actually warned European allies back in June that U.S. intelligence had determined there was a threat of attack against the pipelines. Of course, for the “America is always guilty” crowd, this is just another example of genuine double-naught spy twistiness.
Then there’s the clip of President Joe Biden proclaiming that, should Russia invade Ukraine, “there will be no longer a Nord Stream 2 … I promise you we’ll be able to do it.” This clip is all over right-wing Twitter, alongside claims that it is “Biden’s confession” to sabotaging the pipelines. Complete with lots of exclamation points.
And Twitter is right. Biden did have an insidious way of bringing Russia’s multi-billion dollar pipeline project to a halt. He used … diplomacy. Back on Feb. 22, as the U.S. issued fresh warnings and Russian tanks gathered on the border, Germany suspended the completion of Nord Stream 2. The next day, Germany officially halted all construction. In May, a month before the U.S. issued its warning to European allies, including Germany, NBC news noted that the pipeline was “unused and abandoned.” Industry analysts reported that they “never” expected the pipeline to be commissioned, and senior officials noted that there was “no other use” anticipated.
President Biden declared there would be no Nord Stream 2, and there was no Nord Stream 2. Not a single bomb was required.
So that’s the case against the United States. They warned that the pipelines were vulnerable, and Biden said Nord Stream 2 would be gone if Russia invaded. Oh, and a Polish politician that not one of them had ever heard of before Tuesday made a joke. That’s certainly impressive evidence.
Silly as this may sound, jackasses like Tucker Carlson are trying to parlay this into a serious case against the United States, and in particular, into a claim that Biden has taken us down the path to, of course, inevitable nuclear holocaust. Because no right-wing conspiracy is complete without a good apocalypse.
Capping all this off might be the message that Donald Trump ran with on Wednesday morning on his failing social media platform. After repeating the Biden statement about Nord Stream 2, Trump heavily hinted that the United States was behind the sabotage, talked up a “major escalation” to World War III, and offered his services to “head up” negotiations between Russia and Ukraine so all this stuff could be wrapped up. Yes, really. That Trump tried to stop the pipeline from being built is apparently all forgotten now.
However, there’s a much better suspect for who might have wanted to take out the two pipelines. Not surprisingly, it’s the same nation that Carlson spends the majority of his video absolving from any possibility of having done it. It’s Russia.
Why would Russia be a good candidate for taking down its own pipeline? Because they’ve done it before.
In May, Russia blamed technical issues for an outage on the pipeline that lasted for a week. In June, a reported turbine failure dropped gas through the pipeline by 75%. There has long been a period of annual maintenance on the pipeline. However, this year, Russia declared a second, unscheduled outage that was directly connected to the efforts of Germany and others to cut their dependence on Russian gas. That took the pipeline down for another ten days in July.
Then in August, Russia shut down the pipeline again just as European countries were beginning to fill the storage facilities they would need for the winter. It has not operated at over 20% capacity since then, due to what Russia claimed was “faulty equipment.” Russia also claimed they had hired German engineering firm Siemens to fix the problem. Seimens denied knowing anything about it.
At the beginning of September, the pipeline was completely offline again. There was no doubt about why Russia did this. Russian media, and pro-Russian social media, spent weeks rubbing their hands over thoughts of Germans and Poles “freezing in the dark” without their previous Russian gas. Russian television openly speculated on how this would crash German’s economy, bring an end to the German auto industry, and most of all, cause Europeans to regret ever having back Ukraine in combatting Russia’s illegal invasion.
Only, when it got around to the start of September, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that, while supplies of gas might get “tight,” it looked as if Germany would make it through the winter just fine without Russian gas. Scholz was just one of many European leaders who followed up by saying they would make it fine without Russia. E.U. economic commissioner Paolo Gentiloni said that the whole of Europe was “well prepared to resist Russia’s extreme use of the gas weapon.” And all that was before the new Baltic pipeline bringing gas from Norway and Denmark to eastern Europe opened this month.
Nord Stream 2 never operated. By the first week of September, it was clear that, despite Russia’s many, many attempts to cripple European nations (and manipulate market prices) by withholding gas, it had played all its cards. Nord Stream 1 was worthless. On Sept. 4, Russia actually shut down the pipeline “indefinitely.”
How much money was Russia making from these pipelines? Nothing. How much leverage did they give it over Europe? None.
On the other hand, by destroying the pipeline, Russia is back at the center of right-wing media in the U.S., has ramped up talk of nuclear destruction, and has Donald Trump arguing for a mediated settlement with Ukraine—which means that 100% of the Republican Party will find itself calling for negotiations with Ukraine in roughly ten seconds.
Nord Stream 2 was never going to pump a foot of gas. Nord Stream 1’s value had diminished to where it was never going to have real value again, even if the war ended today. Or you can believe Russia, and it was so decrepit they couldn’t keep it operating anyway. What it comes down to is simply this: The only nation that might potentially gain from blowing up these pipelines is the one most likely to exploit it for both casus belli and for one last poke to bring up the price of gas.
And European leaders seem to get that.
European Union leaders said the apparent attack on two key pipelines in the Baltic Sea showed that the energy conflict between Russia and Europe had entered a potentially dangerous phase and vowed retaliation if evidence emerges that the Kremlin was behind what they believe was an unprecedented act of sabotage.
They have little doubt about who actually pressed this button.
Five European officials with direct knowledge of security discussions said there was a widespread assumption that Russia was behind the incident. Only Russia had the motivation, the submersible equipment and the capability, several of them said, though they cautioned that they did not yet have direct evidence of Russia’s involvement.
That direct evidence is very likely to be found.