The Nord Stream demolition operation was a technical challenge. This required deep open water dives and installing a large amount of precisely located explosives, done secretly. Likely suspects have the motive to take out the pipelines. The culprit might have even indicated intent.
The installation required finding four pipes in open water, deploying and recovering divers, lowering and positioning a large amount of explosives, working on the bottom in deep water, then detonating the charges after being long gone from the scene. This needed top-level diving skills with special procedures and breathing mix, all done secretly in Danish and Swedish economic zones. This isn't the sort of operation an ordinary terrorist organization could pull off—it's elite-level terrorism.
Who could do this, and how was it done? Three claims have been made so far, which I consider below. First, we heard Russia did it, in the initial claim from Washington DC and their lapdog mass media outlets. Second was Seymour Hersh's article reporting that the U.S. Navy and the CIA did it. Third was the Die Zeit German newspaper report that five men and a woman on a sailboat did it.
Russia Did it?
Nord Stream explosion operation
Immediately after the explosions in September 2022, we heard, "Russia did it." This story out of DC was first fed to the White House Press Corps in the Briefing Room and widely bleated out by the lapdog legacy media as the "obvious" answer. The Russia story faded away as most people realized how unlikely the majority share owners of the pipelines would do it. Did the folks who can and had already turned off the gas at the source end and who have made an enormous amount of money selling natural gas through the pipelines to Europe and might make lots more in the future really do it? Why?
This story made me laugh out loud at first hearing, and it wasn't just because the White House Press Secretary, Biden, and the New York Times said it. The "Russia Did It" story doesn't pass the sniff test IMO. In a Sherlock Holmes mystery, the Russian in the locked room would be included as a distraction, a trick to hide the actual culprit who stands up in plain sight.
The U.S. Did It?
On Feb. 8, 2023, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh reported U.S. "Navy divers … planted the remotely triggered explosives that, three months later, destroyed three of the four Nord Stream pipelines". Hersh provided details of the planning, options considered, and execution in a report referencing an insider U.S. government source he has kept anonymous.
A week after Hersh's expose was published, I discussed it on "Nord Stream Bombshell and WW3". I said then, "Hersh's plausible story and reported culprit should be one of the biggest news stories of today, yet a week after publication, we mostly see crickets from legacy media. Everyone seems to be assigned to the China Balloon story. Hersh's history of factually exposing major government crimes should give everyone pause."
On Mar. 22, Hersh published "The Cover-up," reporting the "Biden Administration continues to conceal its responsibility for the destruction of the Nord Stream pipelines." White House and CIA press aides have consistently denied involvement, and the lapdog White House Press Corps gleefully parrots the preferred narrative. Hersh wrote there "is no evidence that any reporter assigned there has yet to ask the White House press secretary whether Biden had done what any serious leader would do: formally 'task' the American intelligence community to conduct a deep investigation. … Why not? Because he knows the answer."
Scott Horton interviewed Seymour Hersh on his Feb. 24, 2023, show "How and Why America Blew Up Nord Stream." Scott played devil's advocate, asking a common objection to Hersh's report—why is the source anonymous, and did he get a second source confirmation? Seymour replied, "Why would you ask me that?" Hersh then pointed out the reason he is able to dig up and publish the truth on matters such as this is his extensive contacts in the government and decades of investigative journalism history keeping government sources confidential.
U.S. government actions upon a source disclosure here might range from loss of a career to a lifetime in prison, to the life Julian Assange got for exposing criminal actions of the U.S. government, to being "suicided" at the hands of the CIA. History says all these are possible for exposing the U.S. government to a crime of this magnitude. Considering the possibility it might be true makes it no surprise Hersh's source wishes to remain anonymous.
When Scott Horton asked about the White House and CIA denials of his report, Seymour Hersh said he didn't care and was used to official denials. Hersh said when he exposed the U.S. government's criminal actions and official coverup in the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam war, he was attacked and vilified in the press and by the CIA for months. Then his "The Massacre At My Lai - A mass killing and its Coverup" report in The New Yorker was confirmed. Reading Hersh's January 1972 My Lai article is like reading his 2023 Nord Stream article. The style and detail and stunning level of criminal behavior and coverup by the U.S. government are similar, except that the government hasn't (yet?) admitted Hersh is right about Nord Stream.
Dave DeCamp put the U.S. government at the top of the suspect list. On antiwar.com, he wrote:
"The UN Security Council voted Monday against a Russian effort to get an independent investigation into the bombings of the Nord Stream natural gas pipelines that connect Russia to Germany. The only members of the Council that voted in favor of the resolution were Russia, China, and Brazil. The remaining 12 members abstained from the vote, including the U.S., the likely culprit of the attacks."
Seymour Hersh's report that the U.S. government did it is, at a minimum plausible, if not likely. The U.S. Navy and Air Force were there in large numbers in the BALTOPS 22 major NATO exercise in the months prior to the explosions, practicing their plans for an attack and invasion of Russia along with the UK military and other NATO members. The U.S. knows how to blow up other people's stuff and has publicly stated both motive and intent. I put the U.S. government at the top of the list for the detectives to bring in for questioning.
Die Zeit Says Six Sailors Did It?
The 50-foot charter yacht Andromeda. Photo: Twitter / Bellingcat
The German publication Die Zeit reported a team of six people sabotaged the pipeline from a rented sailboat, based on several sources and the ongoing German government investigation. An article by Von Holger Stark published in Zeit Online Mar. 7, 2023, named the source as investigations conducted by ARD-Hauptstadtstudio, Kontraste, and der Zeit, who had spoken to sources in Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Netherlands, and the US.
While the German-language Zeit article is being widely cited and interpreted in English media, with varying takes, the information in this "Zeit" section is based entirely on my discussions with someone who read the article and other links in the original German. I provided the article to a fluent German speaker I know and trust who discussed it at length with me, avoiding reliance on the translation and political spin of a mainstream English language U.S. media company. I don't trust the New York Times.
Rather than repeatedly use "as reported…" below, I simply provide the information written as factual in the article in the tone. Add "as reported by Von Holger Stark in Zeit Online based on ARD-Hauptstadtstudio, Kontraste, and Die Zeit investigations" to every sentence if you prefer. ARD-Hauptstadtstudio ("studio-central" or "Capital Studio") is a TV studio in Berlin close to the government center, operated jointly with members of the federal broadcasting network ARD. Kontraste is a Berlin-based TV magazine show with political content. Die Zeit ("The Time") is a weekly national newspaper published in Hamburg.
The Germany-based sources that participated in the investigations are the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), the federal investigative police agency (roughly the German FBI), and the Attorney General of Germany, which has primary jurisdiction in cases of terrorism and represents the federal government in the federal court of justice (Bundesgerichtshof). The German government is investigating the pipeline sabotage and has not yet reached a conclusion.
German prosecutors searched a sailboat, aka a yacht, rented by a German research team of six people. The six-member team used professionally produced fake passports. The team was a Captain, two divers, two diving assistants, and a doctor. The yacht is owned by a Polish company, which two Ukrainians own. The identity of the crew remains unknown.
A van delivered equipment to the yacht, then departed from Rostock in northern Germany on September 6. It was found in a messy condition on a Danish island and returned to Wiek, Germany. Traces of explosives were found onboard by the German prosecutors.
German investigators found no sign the Ukrainian military or intelligence took part in the operation. The Ukrainian Presidential Press Secretary denied any Ukrainian government involvement and pointed to Russia as being behind the operation, stating "there are many more motives and opportunities in this scenario" for Russia to be the culprit (quoted from the Die Zeit article).
International security circles have a theory that the yacht was a false flag operation designed to point to Ukraine. This possibility has not been ruled out. EU Secret Service sources believe that a Ukrainian Commando organization or a pro-Ukrainian group did it.
The German government investigation is still ongoing, and there is no final consensus.
Other Yacht Story Reports
The Guardian reported on March 7 that "German investigators believe the attack on the pipelines was carried out by a team of six people, using a yacht," stating, "European and U.S. intelligence officials have obtained tentative intelligence to suggest a pro-Ukrainian saboteur group may have been behind the bombing." The Guardian cites their sources as The New York Times and Die Zeit. [Caution: Watch for Spin!]. Other mainstream media reports often show similar spin, as if the German government has found the culprit.
Do It On A Sailboat?
I reviewed the sailboat crew culprit story with a commercial diver and instructor experienced in underwater construction, who also holds a 100 Ton Coast Guard Masters license and is an ocean-crossing recreational sailor. Various claims in mainstream and alternate media on the yacht story range from "impossible" to "of course, these people did it." The question is—could a small team have pulled off the sabotage operation with a 50' sailboat?
The commercial diver's analysis is that it's possible but not advisable, with expressed skepticism. On specific technical challenges, finding the four large steel pipelines in the open Baltic Sea can be done using modern location equipment typical of any large contractor, and detailed pipeline location information might be known to oil companies and other non-government entities. The deep dive is possible with multiple-tank scuba setups, using pure oxygen and helium mixes, strict procedures, staged bottles at depths with tank switching and returning to the surface with in-water decompression stop(s) at specific depths breathing pure O2. Nitrogen narcosis is a major risk requiring utmost caution in procedures—U.S. Navy dive tables cover procedures for these depths. There are wreck divers who go to the 175’-250’ depth range of the pipelines in scuba gear. Decompression chamber bags sometimes used on aircraft can be carried and used on this size sailboat.
Bottom time would be pretty short at these depths for divers working there, locating pipes, then moving and precisely setting explosives. It is possible to move thousands of pounds of explosives previously lowered to the bottom, pushed using airbags inflated to neutral buoyancy on the bottom (one estimate of the TNT equivalent required for the detected explosions is 2000 pounds). Divers could be deployed and recovered from a sailboat. Explosives and equipment could be lowered to the bottom by a small deck-mounted crane.
Conclusion: It would be risky and difficult done from the yacht. It would require high-level diving skills, utmost caution, careful procedures, and some top-level equipment. But it is possible. Call it a "maybe," technically, with a healthy dose of skepticism needed if details on how it was done are found and made available.
Review of the 3 Stories—Who Done It?
I put the "Russia Did It" story at a near-nil possibility for simply not making sense. I am quite skeptical of the small German research team on the rented sailboat story for the mission's technical and secrecy requirements, and it's being done from a relatively small sailing yacht.
I put the U.S. Navy/CIA operation done during the NATO exercise story reported by Seymour Hersh as the most likely, of the three possible culprits reported. I don't know who did it, but Washington, DC, being involved is the most plausible story out so far.
This article is Part 2 of a series covering the Nord Stream pipeline sabotage. Part 1 covers the UN vote that blocked an independent UN investigation, the Russian request for investigation, the pipeline's construction, use, and ownership, and the demolition. Part 3 analyzes the possibilities for each of the three possible culprits blamed so far and wonders why the US government doesn't want us to know who did it.