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Thomas Gallatin / October 6, 2022

Who Blew Nord Stream 2?

Some theorize the U.S., but Russia is the strategic beneficiary.

It’s easy to blame an administration with a doddering and feckless leader who wanders off after giving speeches, seemingly unsure of where he is. Joe Biden is so incompetent that he would green-light an operation to blow up the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines because of his administration’s hatred of Russia, or something. The smoking gun has to be Biden’s comments months ago, prior to Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, in which Biden warned: “If Russia invades, that means tanks or troops crossing the border of Ukraine again. Then there will be, there will be no longer a Nord Stream 2. We will bring an end to it.” Biden even reiterated it when questioned: “We will. I promise you, we’ll be able to do it.”

For some folks, that is evidence enough to blame the sabotage of the Russian pipelines on the U.S. Furthermore, Moscow is also blaming the U.S., specifically the CIA. “Let me remind you that a similar situation occurred in 1983,” Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev argued. “At that time, saboteurs recruited by the CIA organized attacks against Nicaragua, which led, among other things, to blowing up an oil pipeline in one of the ports.”

Fox News host Tucker Carlson agrees with Moscow, dedicating a monologue last week to validating such speculation. So does left-wing Columbia University economics professor Jeffrey Sachs, who claimed that most of the world believes that the U.S. did it. “They view this as a horrible clash between Russia and the U.S.,” Sachs argued. “They don’t see this, as we do in the media, as an unprovoked attack by Russia on Ukraine. … The European economy is getting hammered by the sudden cutoff of energy. And now to make it definitive, the destruction of the Nord Stream Pipeline, which I would bet was a U.S. action, perhaps U.S. and Poland. That is speculation.”

Back to Carlson, who simply can’t fathom the notion that Putin might be to blame because it would deprive him of leverage against Europe with supplying energy. “If you were Vladimir Putin, you would have to be a suicidal moron to blow up your own energy pipeline,” he asserted. “That’s the one thing you would never do.” On its face, Carlson is making a fair point. What possible advantage does Putin gain from destroying his own pipeline? Seemingly none, since he already had the power to shut it off. What is gained by then making the lines inoperable?

Well, if the question boils down to that of simply generating income via the pipelines, then yes, there is no logic. However, Putin is clearly not simply interested in enriching himself. Furthermore, Putin is not dependent on the pipeline being up and running in order to continue his war in Ukraine. Indeed, with the war in Ukraine not going his way, and his recent order to call up or effectively draft 300,000 more men for the war — an order that has clearly not been well received — Putin needs something to shore up nationalism. He needs an event to inspire Russians to want to get into the fight. What better way than to effectively play up an attack on Russian infrastructure as a sabotage event by the U.S.?

Secondarily, this could also be used as a wedge issue to create division within NATO. If Germany seriously questions whether the U.S. was behind the attack, it would suggest to the Germans that the U.S. doesn’t trust that Germany will hold firm against Russia. A Germany desperate for fuel as it faces an energy crisis of its own making now finds itself in an even more tenuous position with Russian gas essentially cut off. If Germany is convinced that the U.S. is responsible, there could be several negative repercussions depending on how badly Germany’s energy situation deteriorates.

Finally, Russia also has a recent history of messing with undersea infrastructure. Just last year, Russia was the likely culprit in severing an undersea monitoring network in the North Sea off the coast of Norway. That monitoring network was part of Norway’s defense system designed to detect and track Russian submarines and other traffic.

So, again, the easy conclusion is that the U.S. sabotaged the pipeline to hurt Russia. But the far more likely scenario is that it’s more akin to the Nazis’ Kristallnacht setup of the Jews. Russia and Putin need the chaos more than they need the pipeline.

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