A bombshell report claiming the United States was responsible for the bombing of Russia’s Nord Stream pipelines in the Baltic Sea last year has been blasted as “utterly false” by the White House.
Veteran investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, a former Pulitzer Prize winning reporter with The New York Times and New Yorker, made the explosive claim on Wednesday in his first piece for the Substack blogging platform.
The article, based on an account from one unnamed national security source “with direct knowledge of the operational planning”, alleged the US sabotaged the Russia-to-Germany gas pipelines via a series of underwater blasts on September 26, after planting the remotely detonated explosives three months earlier under cover of the BALTOPS 22 NATO exercise.
“This is utterly false and complete fiction,” White House National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said in a statement to Reuters. The CIA and State Department also categorically denied the report.
According to Hersh, President Joe Biden gave the order after months of back-and-forth discussions between the White House, CIA and Pentagon – and that planning for the attack began in December 2021 under National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.
“Over the next several meetings, the participants debated options for an attack,” Hersh wrote.
“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.’”
The article claims the working group eventually settled on a plan using specialist US Navy deep-sea divers, supported by Norwegian counterparts, to plant shaped C4 charges on the four pipelines, 80 metres underwater.
“The Norwegians also had a solution to the crucial question of when the operation should take place,” Hersh wrote.
“Every June, for the past 21 years, the American Sixth Fleet, whose flagship is based in Gaeta, Italy, south of Rome, has sponsored a major NATO exercise in the Baltic Sea involving scores of allied ships throughout the region.
“The current exercise, held in June, would be known as Baltic Operations 22, or BALTOPS 22. The Norwegians proposed this would be the ideal cover to plant the mines.”
The explosives were initially intended to go off after a 48-hour timer, Hersh wrote, but at the last minute the White House had second thoughts, worrying it would be too “obvious that America had been involved”.
A solution was hastily worked out so that the planted explosives could instead be remotely detonated via a sonar signal on Mr Biden’s order, the article claims.
“On September 26, 2022, a Norwegian Navy P8 surveillance plane made a seemingly routine flight and dropped a sonar buoy,” Hersh wrote.
“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.”
Moscow has repeatedly accused the West of being behind the explosions – which occurred in the exclusive economic zones of Sweden and Denmark – that destroyed three of the four pipelines that make up Nord Stream 1 and 2.
A Danish-Swedish report released in October concluded the leaks were caused by underwater explosions corresponding to hundreds of kilogrammes of explosives, but did not identify a suspect.
Construction of the Nord Stream 2 pair of pipelines was completed in September 2021 and would have doubled the amount of cheap gas available to Germany and Western Europe.
The project, which was vociferously opposed by Republicans in Washington, never went into operation after Germany pulled certification days before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
On the US’ motivation for the alleged attack, Hersh wrote that “as long as Europe remained dependent on the pipelines for cheap natural gas, Washington was afraid that countries like Germany would be reluctant to supply Ukraine with the money and weapons it needed to defeat Russia”.
“In the immediate aftermath of the pipeline bombing, the American media treated it like an unsolved mystery,” Hersh wrote.
“Russia was repeatedly cited as a likely culprit, spurred on by calculated leaks from the White House – but without ever establishing a clear motive for such an act of self-sabotage, beyond simple retribution.”
Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Wednesday called for the US to answer the “facts” presented in Hersh’s piece.
“We have repeatedly stated Russia’s position on the involvement of the United States and NATO, noting that they did not hide it, bragging to the whole world about their intention to destroy the civilian infrastructure through which Europe received Russian energy resources,” spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote on Telegram.
“We have also regularly underscored the reluctance of Denmark, Germany and Sweden to conduct an open investigation and the opposition to Russia’s participation in it. And this is despite the fact that our country has suffered huge costs.
“Now, the White House should comment on all these facts.”
Hersh, who won awards for his reporting on My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War and the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq, has also attracted controversy in recent years.
Critics have accused Hersh of spreading “conspiracy theories” and relying too heavily on anonymous sources.
Story Credit: news.com.au