Sabotage in Nord Stream: the Theories in the Gas Pipeline that Connects Russia and Germany

In LatinAmerican Post, we took a tour of the theories that have been generated around the explosion in the gas pipeline through which Russia sends gas to Germany. Is it a Russian self-sabotage or a plan orchestrated by NATO?

North Stream

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LatinAmerican Post | Christopher Ramírez Hernández

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Leer en español: Sabotaje en Nord Stream: las teorías en el gasoducto que comunica a Rusia y Alemania

On September 26, 2022, a new tension was added in Europe after two underwater natural gas leaks were recorded in Nord Stream, one of the most important gas pipelines in the Old Continent through which Russia sends the important hydrocarbon to Germany. It should be remembered that the Nord Stream project (consisting of two gas pipelines) transported about 55 billion cubic meters of gas per year from Russian to German territory along the entire bed of the Baltic Sea. Of course, it is a mega-construction that would surely be seen as a military objective in the middle of a war; such as the one that has been experienced since February 24, 2022, when Russia invaded Ukraine.

Explosion or Earthquake?

Now, trying to reduce speculation and not add another tension to the already problematic reality that Russia is experiencing in Europe, some main seismological networks in this continent tried to "see the glass half full" and think that the leaks in both gas pipelines derived from natural seismic acts and not from sabotage with explosives. However, after analyzing the evidence collected, especially by Sweden, which has been one of the most active countries in the search for investigations, it was determined that, in effect, the situation occurred after large explosions generated by something or someone. 

Lucía Lozano, a seismologist with the Spanish seismic network, assured in a conversation with the newspaper El País that “explosions and earthquakes of natural origin have different origins. An explosion generates a shock wave that propagates in all directions (…) the first arrival is a very impulsive wave of great amplitude”.

"While a natural earthquake has a fracture origin and the first arrivals (of the wave) can be both dilation and compression," added the expert. Then, Lozano gave a key explanation in understanding this situation: "explosions are usually very superficial, while natural earthquakes have depths of several kilometers."

Under this thesis, a natural earthquake could not have caused the damage that was evidenced in the gas pipelines; as Sweden confirmed weeks later. After several investigations that this country carried out with Danish authorities, it was concluded that, indeed, the Nord Stream case was sabotage. On November 17, 2022, reliable traces of what would have been many explosions were found in the stretch of the Baltic through which the gas pipelines pass. "The analyses carried out found traces of explosives in various foreign objects recovered at the site," Swedish prosecutor Mats Ljungqvist said in an official statement.

You can also read: Infographic: A Year of the War in Ukraine

Who Did It?

According to Ljungqvist, the investigation is complex and very extensive to be able to find a culprit in such a short time. However, he urged other countries interested in finding out more to join the cause, as "ongoing investigations will show whether any suspect can be formally identified."

In this order of ideas, all the accusations that have been launched in recent months are nothing more than attacks, some unfounded, between countries that today are considered enemies. There are numerous theories born within the member countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) that it was Russia itself that self-sabotaged. The Kremlin (Russian government) has done the same, formally accusing the United States and the United Kingdom of orchestrating these attacks.

The first to say that the attack was born in the mind of the US government, in support of Norway, was Seymour Hersh. He is an American journalist who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1970, who referred to President Joe Biden as the main person responsible for these acts. “Biden's decision to sabotage the pipelines was preceded by nine months of top-secret discussions within Washington's national security community,” Hersh wrote.

This investigation, of course, has been taken as a “bible” by the Russian government and other actors who defend the invasion of Ukraine. They assure that the supposed American sabotage obeys a strategy to try to end any relationship that could still exist between Germany and Russia, with gas as the main means of adhesion.

“On a large scale it is a terrorist attack against the alliance, precisely, that was formed years ago between Germany and Russia, and that in geopolitical terms, Germany and Russia had to be prevented from joining because the force generated by both was going to do that the maritime power, which would be the United States, would not have strength," said Dr. Imelda Ibáñez, a specialist in international relations and Russian diplomacy in conversation with the Russian state media Sputnik.

Now, what Russia has considered to be an unappealable truth is for some experts just a “very well written” pack of lies created by Hersh. “The level of detail the article provides could add credibility to your story. However, if we analyze these details, it is when we can see that his story begins to fall apart”, said Oliver Alexander, a specialist in Intelligence from open sources (Osint, for its acronym in English), in an interview with El Confidencial .

For Alexander, the story of the American journalist is based on the appearance of ships that were never at the scene of the events, or the alleged explosion of Norwegian weapons that, according to the Armed Forces of that country, "would not enter service until early of the year 2023”. On the other side of the coin is NATO blaming Russia for blowing up its own gas pipelines in order to gain advantage in the war through the desperation generated by the gas shortage on European soil. It is not a secret that by 2022 the European Union was dependent on Russia for about 40% of its natural gas. Of course, the Russians have always denied the accusations, calling them "predictable, stupid and absurd."

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