Silence around new Nord Stream explosion reporting is disconcerting

By: Rachel Marsden

PARIS — Pulitzer Prize and five-time Polk Award winning American journalist Seymour Hersh, who has spent a career destroying government narratives on everything from the cover-up of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam and the secret bombing of Cambodia to misbehavior of U.S. guards at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison during the US-led Iraq War, now paints the picture of a terrorist act — not against an enemy of Washington, but against one of its closest allies: the European Union.

On Sept. 26, 2022, a series of explosions ripped through Europe’s economic lifelines: the Nord Stream 1 and 2 natural gas pipelines running from Russia to Germany. At that point, Europe had sanctioned its own gas supply from Russia in a misguided effort to curtail Russia’s revenues, but there was always a chance that Europe could drop their sanctions and resume the supply flow. That thought clearly rubbed the Biden administration the wrong way.

On Feb. 7, 2022, even before the conflict in Ukraine went red hot, Biden said that the U.S. would “bring an end” to Nord Stream 2 if Russia engaged militarily in Ukraine.

He confidently spoke the words while standing right next to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, whose country was most heavily dependent on gas from Russia as Europe’s primary economic engine. Now Hersh, citing backroom sources, suggests that Scholz didn’t object. Biden’s remarks echoed those of Victoria Nuland, State Department Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs (and previously for European and Eurasian Affairs): “If Russia invades Ukraine, one way or another Nord Stream 2 will not move forward.” Nuland said.

Hersh describes a U.S.-led plan, concocted by the Biden administration, CIA, and Pentagon officials, around December 2021 and early 2022, for Navy divers to plant explosives near the pipelines while using last summer’s NATO exercise, BALTOPS 22, as cover. The blowup would later be triggered remotely, adding that there was dissent within the CIA and State Department, with some cautioning against a “political nightmare” if the clandestine plan ever came to light.

Norwegian secret services and military were also implicated in the plan, he says, notably in site selection and placement of the explosives. Oslo was also allegedly used by Washington to run interference with neighboring Sweden and Denmark to ensure that eyebrows wouldn’t be raised in the event that divers were spotted where they normally shouldn’t be off the coast of these countries.

But why would Norway even care to get involved? Oslo had already proven itself to a reliable anti-Russian ally. It had recently allowed Washington to place a radar station in Norway. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko expressed concern last April “over the continuing construction of the radar station in the immediate vicinity of the Russian border.”

Hersh says that Norway, like Washington, also had designs on selling their own gas to the rest of Europe, which cheap Russian gas had previously prevented them from doing. And how exactly has that turned out for both countries?

Norway’s gas revenues last year were estimated to have jumped from $27 billion in 2021 to $109 billion as a result of increased sales to Europe, to the point where Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has even accused Norway of war profiteering over that windfall.

Last October, French President Emmanuel Macron also chastised the U.S. and Norway for making “superprofits” from gas sales to Europe.

Macron also pointed out that “American gas is 3-4 times cheaper on the domestic market than the price [of LNG] at which they offer it to Europeans,” echoing Germany’s economy minister, Robert Habeck, who has pointed out that “some countries, including friendly ones, sometimes achieve astronomical prices [for their gas],” in reference to the problem.

Europe has replaced its reliance on Russian gas with a new dependence on U.S. LNG. Meanwhile, European industry continues to struggle with energy costs. Failure by Europe to subsidize them could mean the deindustrialization of Europe as they jump ship to the U.S., where energy is still plentiful and reasonable. The Belgian government recently sounded the alarm on aggressive seduction efforts by U.S. officials.

So the two biggest beneficiaries of Nord Stream’s destruction just happen to be the two top-billed players in the alleged plan — which both the CIA and White House officially deny.

What’s disturbing, however, is the lack of discussion and debate around the reporting, whether it’s for fear of harming Western unity or of playing into Russia’s hands by evoking a narrative other than, “Russia/Putin bad.” There’s a troubling lack of interest amid the Ukraine conflict in questioning U.S. and allied government actions — which hasn’t been the case in previous conflicts. How convenient that avoiding questions of accountability also lets the most powerful off the hook.