Explained: Deeper Implications Of The Nord Stream Gas Pipelines Sabotage

Explained: Deeper Implications Of The Nord Stream Gas Pipelines Sabotage

by Venu Gopal Narayanan - Monday, February 13, 2023 10:37 AM IST
Explained: Deeper Implications Of The Nord Stream Gas Pipelines SabotageThe locations of the blast.
  • Whether or not Olaf Scholz knew about the Nord Stream sabotage, this is proof that Germany has been used in America’s power game.

Seymour Hersh, a Pulitzer Prize- winning American investigative journalist, recently published a startling expose on the bombing of two undersea pipelines near the Danish Island of Bornholm, in the Baltic Sea of northern Europe.

These pipelines, called Nord Stream 1 and 2, which transport natural gas from Russia to Germany, were blown up at two points on 26 September 2022.

According to Hersh, this destruction was planned by the American government, and executed jointly by America and Norway.

The explosives and special operatives were apparently ferried to the spots by a Norwegian submarine, placed on the seabed by American divers in June 2022 under cover of a major military exercise in the area, and triggered on 26 September by a sonar buoy dropped from a Norwegian plane.

His revelations are diametrically opposite to the Western mainstream media narrative, which says that the Russians are the culprits.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has dismissed this narrative, saying that there was no need for them to undertake such an elaborate operation if indeed they wanted to stop selling gas to Germany; all Russia had to do was close a valve.

Since its publication, much of the commentary around the expose has been limited to either disproving it, or using it to politically attack American President Joe Biden, and senior American diplomat Victoria Nuland, both of whom publicly stated that the Nord Stream pipelines would stop carrying gas if Russia invaded Ukraine.

But what the prevailing commentary fails to do, is to step back and look at the deeper implications of the sabotage from a very intriguing angle.

Doing so would help us put in perspective, the mess Germany (along with the rest of Europe) is presently in: high energy prices, severe energy shortages, crippling inflation, recessions, an erosion of savings, a lack of growth, and a near-complete dependency on America for its energy and security needs. (See here for a detailed summation of the mess Europe is now in thanks to Biden’s policies)

Strangely, this self-inflicted multi-faceted crisis in Europe is a new development, since France and Germany, the two large powers of continental Europe, had consistently demonstrated some degree of independence in the crafting of their foreign policy, even during the worst days of the Cold War.

Ever since they recovered from the humiliations and sufferings of the Second World War, the Germans had always been adept at managing the East.

Chancellor Willy Brandt’s 1971 decision to start buying hydrocarbons from the Soviet Union in large volumes meant that the Russians would always weigh the profit of a lucrative trade in precious foreign exchange against any ideological desire to send their tanks back into West Berlin.

It also insulated Germany from oil shocks to some extent.

That tradition was carried on by Chancellor Helmut Kohl who managed the end of the Cold War without fuss, while establishing umbilical trade and manufacturing links with a China on the rise.

Chancellor Angela Merkel took this approach forward in her equally long tenure, deftly ensuring that enviable German prosperity was based on cheap Russian energy and in that sense, they are a mirror image of the French, who have been equally adept at managing America.

Charles De Gaulle was absolutely clear on one point: while France would always stand shoulder-to-shoulder with America against the Soviet threat, he would not let France outsource her security entirely to America.

France would always have independent military plans which, of course, also tied into NATO’s plans to protect western Europe.

That is why the French have always maintained a large standing army equipped with weapon systems, aircraft, submarines, and ships made in France.

Yet, it was French President Francois Mitterrand’s sustained diplomatic efforts which finally convinced the Americans that Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was the real deal, and led to the end of the Cold War.

For a full century, both Germany and France acknowledged that they needed America, but only within reason. Unfortunately, that is not the case today.

While the French are trying to ensure that their aims and interests are not swamped by American ones, the Germans under Chancellor Olaf Scholz appear to have gone into a policy coma.

If Hersh’s report is right, then the Germans didn’t know about the sabotage plan. This is almost impossible to believe for a number of reasons.

First, Germany was a key participant of the military exercises of June 2022, and these concluded in Kiel, a German port.

They would surely have picked up the movements of a Norwegian submarine — if not from the exercise’s data centre, then certainly from their own extensive sonar beds in the area.

Second, the Germans would also have tracked the Norwegian plane which dropped the sonar buoy, and under normal circumstances, this would have been flagged for query.

Third, both Bornholm Island and the blast locations are close to German territorial waters, this is one of the busiest passages in the region, the waters are quite shallow, and in summer months, the area is filled with small private yachts out on pleasure cruises.

So, if the Germans didn’t know what was afoot, then this act of sabotage on pipelines partly owned by German companies, is an unforgivably heinous betrayal perpetrated by two of their closest allies and trading partners — America and Norway (the latter also supplies large volumes of natural gas to Germany).

Yet, equally, if the German government did know of the sabotage being orchestrated, and kept quiet, then it is an unforgivably heinous betrayal of the German people by their own government, which demonstrates that the Scholz administration is far more hopelessly and helplessly ensnared in America’s web than we think.

Thus, irrespective of the expose’s revelations, there is no escape for Olaf Scholz since, whether he knew or not, this is proof that Germany has been used in America’s power game.

The disruptions in energy supplies since Russia invaded Ukraine have caused widespread economic mayhem in Germany, added to their industrial woes already at a high because of the pandemic-induced lockdowns in China, and pushed inflation to levels not seen in over half a century.

Growth has turned negative; one more quarter of this and Germany will formally be in a recession. People are unable to make ends meet, and the frequency of protests is rising.

The nation’s fiscal management, which made it one of the strongest economies of the modern age, and the envy of the world, is now a deficit with a key difference: it no longer has access to cheap energy from Russia.

Instead, in a case of painful irony, Germany now has to depend on energy supplies from the two nations who, according to Hersh, blew up the Nord Stream pipeline — Norway and America.

It wouldn’t have come to this as long as Angela Merkel was Chancellor, and didn’t. Note how the Russia-Ukraine narrative started to be built in earnest only after Scholz became Chancellor in December 2021.

And it needn’t stay like this, because the Russians say that one of the two Nord Stream pipelines has been repaired and is ready to recommence gas supply the day Germany gives Moscow a green light.

Unfortunately, while the Germans have everything — an immensely advanced, and highly industrialised society, high standards of living, and remarkable prosperity — the one thing they don’t have at present is a foreign policy.

And yet, this unbearable situation of an absent foreign policy cannot continue much further in such agonising limbo.

One of two things will happen soon: either the German economy will flounder further, or the German people will rebel, and push for a fresh peace with Russia.

Venu Gopal Narayanan is an independent upstream petroleum consultant who focuses on energy, geopolitics, current affairs and electoral arithmetic. He tweets at @ideorogue.
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