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Nord Stream, damaged, gas pipeline
Site where an explosion damaged the gas pipeline Nord Stream 1 earlier this month. Baltic Sea, Sweden, October, 17 2022. Photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from © Trond Larsen/TT via ZUMA Press

Norwegian journalist shares his perspective

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It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so. — Mark Twain

In last week’s column, I raised questions about those claiming to absolutely know that the US government was behind the bombing of the Nord Stream natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany. 

People cite that claim as a basis for creating a kind of complicated equivalency between Russia and the US, which is then used to argue for not helping the Ukrainians defend themselves from Russia’s furious assault. 

More reasons to question that certitude have emerged since. Here are a few news items of note, and below that, I’ll reprint an email I got from a Norwegian journalist regarding Seymour Hersh’s assertion that the US and Norway worked together to bomb the pipeline. 

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German authorities just reported a “breakthrough” in their ongoing investigation of the Nord Stream bombing. They say they have identified a small team of saboteurs using a yacht to transport explosives. 

The yacht was rented by a Polish-registered company, apparently owned by two Ukrainians, from a German company. 

The group is reported, by an unnamed source, to have sailed from the north German port of Rostock on September 6, 2022, and were seen the next day on the Danish island of Christianso. The yacht had been returned to the owner uncleaned. German investigators searched the ship in January of this year “in connection with a suspicious rental.” They found traces of explosives on the yacht, according to ARD and Die Zeit

The team consisted of five men and one woman using forged passports whose nationalities are unclear, but could be Ukrainians or anti-Putin Russians. 

Is this report reliable? Maybe. A senior Western security official said that, after the attack, Western spy agencies began scouring intelligence data for clues, and did find “signals” that pro-Ukraine individuals discussed the possibility of attacking the pipelines. (But he also said Russian naval vessels were detected at or near the locations of the attack, weeks leading up to the explosions, as if that were unusual.)

Were these alleged Ukrainian saboteurs just rogue cowboys acting independently? Or was it with the knowledge of the Ukrainian government? How likely is it that President Volodymyr Zelenskyy or members of his inner circle would do something that would jeopardize their lifeline of support from the West?

“Ukraine absolutely did not participate in the attack on Nord Stream 2,” said Mykhailo Podolyak, a top adviser to Zelenskyy, questioning why his country would conduct an operation that “destabilizes the region and will divert attention from the war, which is categorically not beneficial to us.”

What will we hear tomorrow?

Norway, Moscow, 490m

Outside Kirkenes, Norway. Norwegians have a lot to lose if they poke the Russian bear. Photo credit: Donald West / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The following is from a note sent to me by a Norwegian journalist I know who has a history of quality, independent journalism, in response to last week’s column. He comments on claims that the NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg, a Norwegian, together with Norwegian authorities, collaborated in an alleged US bombing of the Nord Stream Pipeline. (He wishes to remain anonymous.)

I’m sure you’ve seen the OSINT-work that shows neither the ship nor the plane Hersh claimed were involved was in the area.

Anyway, some quick general thoughts on the Hersh story from a Norwegian perspective. I’m not a security expert, do not have special access to anything, but know a bit about how this small country works.

Norwegian security hinges on NATO/USA, and the leadership is certainly very accommodating to the US on security issues, including likely gray areas, and are usually happy to participate in international operations such as in Libya. 

When the US hired retired Norwegian cops to spy on Norwegians for the US, they didn’t seriously protest.

But besides the close relationship with NATO/US, they’ve sought dialogue, cooperation, and avoidance of conflict with Russia. Obviously the military has been focused on the possibility of an invasion from the east, especially during the cold war, and the country is squarely with Ukraine in the current conflict, but it does not make sense when Hersh claims of the Norwegians that “they hated the Russians.” 

Unlike others, such as the Baltic countries, Russia was never an invader or occupier here, but rather a liberation force back in 1945, something that has not been forgotten, especially in the north.

Sharing info with the US, or participating in dodgy but public international US-initiated military operations, is very different from attacking important European-Russian infrastructure with bombs. 

Norwegian leaders, political and military, are risk averse as fuck, and as a small and wealthy nation very keen on a rules-based international order. There is no instance in history of them doing anything remotely as high risk as in peace-time blowing up a major gas line co-owned by a close ally and neighbouring nuclear power. 

The idea that they’d do it to increase profits, from the record level current profits filling up the already huge wealth fund at the time, is frankly bananas — their interest would 100 percent be to not break the taboo of bombing underwater gas pipes, a tactic Norwegian interests would be extremely vulnerable to. They have thousands of miles of those things, impossible to effectively protect, Russia could blow them up easily, with dramatic economic effect. And if attacked by Norway in such a way first, why wouldn’t they? The risk/benefit ratio is just wildly negative for Norway here.

Many have already pointed out Stoltenberg’s young age when supposedly recruited as an “American agent”, that he actually supported (the anti-US) FNL in the Vietnam war, and that when he led the influential Labour Youth (the later target of the July 22 attacks), he campaigned for the Labour Party to change their pro-NATO position and leave the alliance he is currently leading. 

His pre-NATO track record is not especially hardline on Russia as claimed, notably his number one foreign relations victory as prime minister was an important top level agreement with Russia on sea borders and cooperation in the north in 2011. 

Although the Labour Party is pragmatic, social democratic center-left, and as such far from communist, I’ve never seen Stoltenberg described as a “committed anti-communist”; communism has been a pretty marginal and harmless phenomenon in Norway during his political life, not something he has had any reason to be particularly focused on. Nor has Russia been communist for a good while. 

Personally I find Russia did it (possibly with a false flag element), Ukraine did it, or a non-state pro-Ukrainian group did it, all perfectly possible explanations at this point. I’d be surprised at US involvement but it’s certainly more likely than Norwegian. But my key takeaway is that anyone who insists they have the truth on this one at this point, is someone not worth listening to.


Author

  • Russ Baker

    Russ Baker is Editor-in-Chief of WhoWhatWhy. He is an award-winning investigative journalist who specializes in exploring power dynamics behind major events.

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