The Nord Stream pipeline bombings were a massive ecological disaster that also wiped out a major source of energy for one of the most advanced countries in Europe — Germany.
But now there is evidence that the bombings may very well have been an “inside job”; and contrary to early reports, not the dirty sabotage of NATO’s arch-nemesis Russia.
The Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines running under the Baltic Sea for the transport of Russian natural gas to Germany were destroyed by explosions at the end of September 2022. In recent months, there have been growing indications that Ukraine could be behind the detonations, including investigations by German authorities.
“The tracks lead in one direction – to Ukraine,” Der Spiegel reported on Friday.
“It’s a spy thriller that has what it takes to change world politics: A year ago, a secret commando blew up the Nord Stream pipelines in the Baltic Sea,” the report led in. “Since then, investigators have been searching for the perpetrators. The trail they are following is politically highly dangerous.”
The saboteurs of the Nord Stream pipeline apparently fled to Ukraine after the attack. This is indicated by numerous data traces that the investigators were able to evaluate, reports the magazine Spiegel. Experts from the Federal Criminal Police Office and the Federal Police came to the conclusion that the suspects were in Ukraine before and after the act of sabotage and communicated from there, according to a preliminary report on Friday.
According to the magazine, suspicions now prevail among investigators and agents that a Ukrainian commando was responsible for the attack on Germany’s energy infrastructure. On the other hand, there are no indications of a so-called “false flag” operation by Moscow, in which Russia triggered the explosions and deliberately laid a false trail in Ukraine.
German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) is confident that there will be an indictment against the saboteurs of the Nord Stream pipeline. “I hope that the Federal Prosecutor General will find enough clues to indict the perpetrators,” Faeser told Der Spiegel. In the case, he is investigating unknown persons for “causing an explosive explosion and anti-constitutional sabotage.”
“We have to bring such criminals to justice,” Faeser stressed. “It would also strengthen citizens’ trust in the rule of law if it were possible to resolve such a complex case. The attack immediately raised the question of how the Federal Republic could better protect itself. A failure of critical infrastructure, such as pipelines or power lines, could have an enormous impact on people’s lives,” the minister said.
In July, European envoys informed the U.N. Security Council that their investigation had found evidence of underwater explosives in samples collected from a yacht scrutinized as part of the inquiry. However, they stated it was not yet possible to “reliably establish” who was behind the act, their intentions, or if a particular nation was implicated.
Earlier in March, officials had expressed skepticism regarding media claims that suggested a pro-Ukraine group had orchestrated the sabotage. Reports from German media at that time had indicated that six individuals—five men and a woman—used a yacht chartered by a company based in Ukraine and originating from the German port of Rostock, to execute the attack.
While German federal prosecutors did not directly address these and other media speculations, they did verify that a vessel was inspected in January. They also noted suspicions that this boat might have been utilized to deliver explosives for the purpose of damaging pipelines.
German intelligence officials reacted to the explosions by raising suspicions that Russia had caused them. Gerhard Schindler, former president of the German Federal Intelligence Service, reacted to the situation.
“An unnoticed, conspiratorial damage to pipelines at a depth of 80 meters in the Baltic Sea requires sophisticated technical and organizational capabilities that clearly point to a state actor,” Schindler said. “Only Russia can really be considered for this, especially since it stands to gain the most from this act of sabotage.”
U.S. officials were also quick to point the finger at Russia.
Former CIA Director John Brennan implicated Russia as the likely culprit behind the Nord Stream bombings.
“I think all the signs point to some kind of sabotage,” Brennan said on CNN, where he is a contributor. “Russia does have an undersea capability to easily lay explosive devices by those pipelines. I do think it’s a signal to Europe that Russia can reach beyond Ukraine’s borders. So, who knows what [Putin] might be planning next.”
Jennifer Granholm, the U.S. energy secretary, told the BBC an investigation was being carried out into the cause of “an act of sabotage,” adding “it is highly unlikely that these incidents are coincidence.”
In September, it came out that the C.I.A. “issued a vague warning in June to a number of European nations, including Germany, that the two Nord Stream gas pipelines that carry natural gas from Russia could be targeted in forthcoming attacks,” the Times reported after the Nord Stream bombings.
In early 2023, American intelligence analysts admitted their belief that pro-Ukrainian groups were likely behind the bombings. It came out in June 2023 that U.S. intelligence had been alerted to the Ukrainian plan three months before an operation was carried out.
“Three months before saboteurs bombed the Nord Stream natural gas pipeline, the Biden administration learned from a close ally that the Ukrainian military had planned a covert attack on the undersea network, using a small team of divers who reported directly to the commander in chief of the Ukrainian armed forces,” the Washington Post reported.
“Details about the plan, which have not been previously reported, were collected by a European intelligence service and shared with the CIA in June 2022,” the report added. “They provide some of the most specific evidence to date linking the government of Ukraine to the eventual attack in the Baltic Sea, which U.S. and Western officials have called a brazen and dangerous act of sabotage on Europe’s energy infrastructure.”
The European intelligence report implicating Ukraine in the Nord Stream attacks was part of the Discord Leaks shared by Air National Guard member Jack Teixeira.
President Joe Biden in February 2022 had issued a vague threat about the Nord Stream pipelines in the event that Russia invaded Ukraine: “We will bring an end to it.”
“If Russia invades, that means tanks or troops crossing the border of Ukraine again, then there will be no longer a Nord Stream 2,” Biden said. “We will bring an end to it.”