A new report blames the attack last September on a pro-Ukrainian outfit. It is hardly the last word on the case, but a good sign that the truth will come out in the end, which is crucial to maintain support in the West.
PARIS — Who sabotaged the two Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines connecting Russia to Germany via the Baltic Sea?
The famous pipelines, an absolute symbol of Germany's — now, former — dependence on Russian gas, exploded at the bottom of the sea last September. No one claimed responsibility for this act during the war in Ukraine, giving free rein to all hypotheses, speculations, and inevitable conspiracy theories.
There is new information in the investigation, without providing a definitive answer on the identity or motivation of the perpetrators. Germany, which led the investigation, revealed yesterday that it had identified a ship that could have been used to carry out the operation. This boat had been rented by a Polish company owned by Ukrainians.
This Ukrainian lead was immediately denied by the authorities in Kyiv.
And the German government has warned against jumping to conclusions, as the investigation is still ongoing. German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius even mentioned the risk of deliberately leaving clues to muddy the waters: "It may be a false-flag operation," he said, "it would not be the first time in history."
An American hypothesis
Who had an interest in destroying the pipelines? This question was asked in September, and several hypotheses were on the table. I personally mentioned that of Russia, as it had unilaterally cut gas supplies a few weeks earlier and was playing the card of European panic as winter approached. But that was just one hypothesis among others.
Hersh's theory has been readily embraced by pro-Russian networks.
A theory of alleged American responsibility has also attracted attention: The United States, according to this scenario, wanted to prevent any resumption of Russian deliveries in order to force the hand of the Europeans. A prominent American journalist, Seymour Hersh, asserted in early February that the explosives were placed on the pipelines during NATO maneuvers during the summer, to explode in September.
But Hersh, who had his moment of glory during the Vietnam War, has since lost a lot of credibility and often flirted with conspiracy theories. His theory has been readily embraced by pro-Russian networks.
So now we have a new lead of pro-Ukrainian involvement, again to be taken with a pinch of salt.
Nord Stream pipeline leaking into the Baltic Sea after the September 2022 explosion
Importance of optics
Why is this case so important? In a conflict of this magnitude, the main battle is for public opinion. The massive financial and military aid that the West provides to Ukraine, against the Russian invasion, relies on sustained and majority support from the citizens of contributing countries. If a doubt arises about the motivations or actions of one of the conflict's actors, this support may be threatened.
Information wars, invisible but very real, thrive on these doubts. It is therefore essential that the truth be established. The good news from this episode is that an investigation is underway and making progress. Germany, as well as Sweden and Denmark, the Baltic Sea neighbors, had announced investigations, but there has been no news on that front.
The elements revealed yesterday are obviously insufficient to draw conclusions. They raise more questions than they answer. But we can now hope that the truth will come out. This is essential.