Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist, Seymour Hersh, has claimed that the United States was responsible for explosions last year on the Nord Stream gas pipelines, which were designed to carry Russian gas to Germany under the Baltic Sea.
In a lengthy report on his substack, Hersh claims that the United States executed a “covert sea operation” that had the approval of the Biden administration – and that he was given details of the operation by an unidentified source with direct knowledge of the planning.
However, Hersh says he cannot name his source and the White House has described his report as being “utterly false” and “complete fiction”, while the CIA and State Department also issued categorical denials.
The Nord Stream pipelines were built to facilitate cheap gas being sold by Russia to Germany and Western Europe. The second pipeline, Nord Stream 2, was opposed by Washington who had concerns about the power given to Moscow by Europe’s reliance on Russian energy, but it never received final certification as Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.
Hersh says that the U.S. executed a plan to set off the series of underwater blasts on September 26 last, having planted explosives three months earlier using the cover of NATO exercises.
He claims that the Norwegian Secret Service and Navy were involved, and that highly trained divers with “a mixture of oxygen, nitrogen and helium streaming from their tanks” would “plant shaped C4 charges on the four pipelines with concrete protective covers.”
The veteran journalist says that plans to take out the pipeline began in 2021 under National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, as the treat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine grew.
“Over the next several meetings, the participants debated options for an attack,” Hersh says.
“The Navy proposed using a newly commissioned submarine to assault the pipeline directly. The Air Force discussed dropping bombs with delayed fuses that could be set off remotely. The CIA argued that whatever was done, it would have to be covert. Everyone involved understood the stakes. ‘This is not kiddie stuff,’ the source said. If the attack were traceable to the United States, ‘It’s an act of war.’”
Hersh says that having worked out the logistics regarding how to plant the explosives using the cover of NATO exercises, the White House then balked at blowing up the pipelines so soon after the very visible NATO presence, and the team was requested to “come up with some way to blow the pipelines later on command”.
The journalist claims that the team came up with a solution: “the C4 attached to the pipelines would be triggered by a sonar buoy dropped by a plane on short notice, but the procedure involved the most advanced signal processing technology. Once in place, the delayed timing devices attached to any of the four pipelines could be accidentally triggered by the complex mix of ocean background noises throughout the heavily trafficked Baltic Sea—from near and distant ships, underwater drilling, seismic events, waves and even sea creatures. To avoid this, the sonar buoy, once in place, would emit a sequence of unique low frequency tonal sounds—much like those emitted by a flute or a piano—that would be recognized by the timing device and, after a pre-set hours of delay, trigger the explosives.”
“On September 26, 2022, a Norwegian Navy P8 surveillance plane made a seemingly routine flight and dropped a sonar buoy. The signal spread underwater, initially to Nord Stream 2 and then on to Nord Stream 1. A few hours later, the high-powered C4 explosives were triggered and three of the four pipelines were put out of commission. Within a few minutes, pools of methane gas that remained in the shuttered pipelines could be seen spreading on the water’s surface and the world learned that something irreversible had taken place,” he wrote.
Hersh says that much of the world’s media published speculation that the Russians had themselves blown up the pipeline to benefit from spiking gas prices – but he pointed to statements made the U.S. administration which he believed supported his claims.
“While it was never clear why Russia would seek to destroy its own lucrative pipeline, a more telling rationale for the President’s action came from Secretary of State Blinken,” Hersh wrote.
Asked at a press conference last September about the consequences of the worsening energy crisis in Western Europe, Blinken described the moment as a potentially good one:
“It’s a tremendous opportunity to once and for all remove the dependence on Russian energy and thus to take away from Vladimir Putin the weaponization of energy as a means of advancing his imperial designs. That’s very significant and that offers tremendous strategic opportunity for the years to come, but meanwhile we’re determined to do everything we possibly can to make sure the consequences of all of this are not borne by citizens in our countries or, for that matter, around the world.”
More recently, Victoria Nuland expressed satisfaction at the demise of the newest of the pipelines. Testifying at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in late January she told Senator Ted Cruz, “Like you, I am, and I think the Administration is, very gratified to know that Nord Stream 2 is now, as you like to say, a hunk of metal at the bottom of the sea.”
At the time, the Nord Stream blasts were described by Sweden and Denmark as appearing to have happened as a result of a deliberate attack.
Reports say that, when about Hersh’s claim that the Norwegian secret service supported the operation, the Norwegian foreign ministry said: “These claims are false.”