The United States and Europe, along with Ukraine, insist it was Russia, while Russia and others point the finger straight back at the United States. The answer is not as obvious as first appears.
As a starting point, it is helpful to consider who wins, and who loses, with the long-term incapacitation of these 110 billion cubic meters (bcm) of combined annual capacity gas pipelines from Russia to Germany. Who benefits from cutting off a key source of Russian state revenue as well as a key source of energy supply to Western Europe?
Russia’s motivations for self-sabotage are less than clear. Russia loses not only a substantial portion of its revenue, desperately needed to support the costly war in Ukraine and maintain its stagnating economy, but most of its negotiating leverage with the West. Russia’s ability to cut off or restart the flow of gas was its most important hole card at the poker table with Germany and the European Union. Indeed, at the end of August 2022, Russia suspended all deliveries of gas though Nord Stream 1 due to “maintenance requirements” in order to pressurize the situation. While Nord Stream 2 was not yet certified by the EU and was delivering no gas, it was completed and pressurized, and could have been brought online once a negotiated settlement to the war was reached.
Russia can divert some gas to China, but not that much due to existing pipeline capacity constraints. Russia exports a mere 16 bcm of gas to China, with another 10 bcm of capacity under development but not available for at least the next two years. In contrast, Russia shipped three times that amount (48 bcm) to Germany alone before the invasion of Ukraine.
On October 2, 2022, less than a week after the sabotage, Russia suspended gas shipments to Italy due to “transport problems in Austria,” ratcheting up the leverage. Last year, Italy imported 95 percent of its gas, of which Russia comprised 45 percent, equivalent to 26 bcm. Russia appears to be more than willing to sacrifice short-term revenue for the long-term strategic game it’s playing. But to intentionally destroy something it already controlled appears to make little sense even in a Machiavellian construct of the devious minds within the Kremlin.
The regional territorial conflict initiated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has just escalated dramatically into something with global implications. While it seems terrible even to contemplate the possibility, the United States appears to have both motive and the most to gain from the situation.
The economic interests to the United States of supplanting Russia as the primary gas supplier to European energy markets are obvious. The geo-political interests of a weakened Russia similarly align. The United States has long been opposed to development of Nord Stream 2 on grounds that it would increase Germany’s dependence on Russia and diminish U.S. influence. German ministers roundly mocked President Donald Trump when he warned at the 2018 UN General Assembly of the grave energy security risks that Russia posed to Germany, and by implication the entire EU. None are laughing now.
In February 2022, Joe Biden promised to “end” Nord Stream 2 if Russia invaded Ukraine. In June 2022, the New York Times reported that “The C.I.A. had warned European governments of potential attacks on pipelines,” alerts which may have been repeated in the weeks prior to the sabotage. Most tellingly, less than a week following the attacks, Secretary of State Antony Blinken (perhaps inadvertently) laid out the case for the benefit of the situation to the United States, while denying Russian President Putin’s accusations of U.S. involvement.
Blinken stated that the situation creates, “a tremendous opportunity to once and for all remove [Europe’s] dependence on Russian energy and thus to take away from Vladimir Putin the weaponization of energy as a means of advancing his imperial designs.” He further declared that the United States stood to benefit from the shifting landscape, noting, “we’ve significantly increased our production as well as making available to Europe liquefied natural gas. And we’re now the leading supplier of LNG to Europe to help compensate for any gas or oil that it’s losing as a result of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.”
A secondary question is, who has the expertise and technology to pull this off undetected? The size of the explosions and the technical challenges of the attack, including the ability to quietly slip in and out of patrolled waters, appear to rule out a number of potential suspects or “persons of interest,” including Ukraine, environmental extremists, or a hidden cabal of powerful anarchists or WEF globalists. However, China, Russia, or the United States, along with some other nations certainly have the know-how, including advanced submarine technology.
Needless to say, I have no idea who is actually responsible. Perhaps it really was Russia, and Putin is playing a complicated and counterintuitive game that defies both logic and common sense. Perhaps we will learn the answer as the investigations continue. Or perhaps it will remain hidden, like so many other disturbing recent events, behind a veil of deception and secrecy. In any case, something is rotten in Denmark, and the stench emitting from the dark quarters of state sponsored covert warfare is reeking to the heavens.