It’s been close to half a year since the Nord Stream pipeline—a controversial Russian energy project designed to bring cheap natural gas to European markets—mysteriously exploded. In the immediate aftermath of the pipeline’s destruction, sabotage seemed like the most likely explanation. But despite six months having passed since the pipeline burst, nobody seems to know who is responsible—and some don’t seem all too eager to find out, either.
This week, the United Nations Security Council failed to pass a draft proposal to form an independent investigative commission to look into the Nord Stream’s destruction. The proposal, submitted by Russia, would have required that the UN Secretary-General bring together a team of experts and international representatives to spearhead an investigation into the pipeline’s destruction, with a special focus on identifying the “perpetrators, sponsors, organizers and accomplices” responsible for the explosion.
While three countries voted in favor of the proposal (Russia, China, and Brazil), the other twelve members of the Security Council abstained from a vote, dooming its passage. Council members who abstained cited a number of reasons for doing so, chief among them that three different governments—Denmark, Germany, and Sweden—are already currently investigating the pipeline’s destruction.
However, Russia claims that the very reason it submitted the proposal in the first place is because it lacks faith in the other nations’ investigations.
Despite the UN’s apparent disinterest in pursuing a broader inquiry, Russia claimed this week that it would continue to pursue an international effort. “We will do everything in our power to continue to insist and to initiate such an international investigation,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters during a conference call.
The plea for an investigation—and the EU’s formal rejection of those calls—follow on the heels of a pair of controversial reports that cast contradictory portraits of what had happened to the Nord Stream.
The first of those reports was penned by Pulitzer prize winning journalist Seymour Hersh, who, in February, published a story to his Substack claiming that the Biden administration was responsible for the sabotage. According to Hersh, a clandestine effort was orchestrated at the highest levels of the government, involving both the White House and the U.S. intelligence community. These efforts culminated with a secret mission carried out by Navy divers to plant remotely trigger-ready mines near the pipeline’s infrastructure, that were allegedly later used to destroy the project.
Not long after Hersh’s story was published, another version of events was presented—this time by the New York Times. According to the Times’ version, published in March, a shadowy “pro-Ukrainian group,” unconnected to the official Ukrainian government, may have been responsible for the incident. This story came from anonymous government sources and couldn’t provide hard details about what had happened.
The claims of a rogue saboteur group seemed potentially plausible, although they did inspire a lot of basic questions. Like, if you’re not affiliated with a government, where do you get divers experienced enough to drop to the bottom of the ocean and plant mines?
Hersh’s narrative has similarly suffered skepticism—with some critics attempting to poke holes in the veteran journalist’s reporting. In particular, members of the so-called open source investigation community, or OSINT, claim that vessel tracking data and other publicly available digital evidence disprove Hersh’s version of events. Hersh has disavowed these critics, claiming that U.S. intelligence has ways of dealing with OSINT when it interferes with their missions, though he’s been somewhat vague as to what those are.
With an international inquiry out, it seems the public will have to await the results of the individual national investigations currently being conducted to find out what the heck happened to the Nord Stream. So far, those investigations don’t seem to be producing much in the way of publicly available evidence. However, this week, Danish deep sea investigators are said to have discovered a “mysterious cylindrical object” near the site of the pipeline explosion. Some have speculated that this object might be a “signals antenna” that was used to help detonate the supposed bombs attached to the infrastructure project. Denmark has invited Gazprom, the Russian energy company that owns a majority stake in the pipeline, to inspect the object.
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