The Darkening Clouds of a Larger War
On September 26, the Swedish National Seismic Institute detected an explosion along the Nordstream 2 Pipeline southeast of the Danish Island of Bornholm in the Baltic Sea. On September 27, a second, stronger blast registering 2.3 on the earthquake scale was registered along Nordstream 1 northeast of the island. The result was one leak on Nordstream 2 and two leaks on Nordstream 1. A fourth leak has now been discovered on Nordstream 2. The German magazine Das Spiegel estimated that explosive damage at each of four leaks was greater than a one-thousand pound aerial bomb or torpedo. Two of the leaks are in Swedish waters and two in Danish waters. The methane environmental catastrophe rising to the surface was first discovered by a Danish Navy helicopter. The degree of damage and the time to fix it has not yet been determined, but it looks like there will be no gas from either pipeline this winter. Fixing the infrastructure and environmental damage under political uncertainty could take years. Based on 2017 statistics, Germany has been getting 40 percent of its natural gas from Nordstream 1. Before we explore the possible perpetrators and motivations of this outrage, it is important to recognize the immense economic investment in the pipelines and future economic and humanitarian consequences.
Nordstream 1 is a 759-mile double 4-foot diameter line natural gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea. Construction of the first line began in 2010, which began pumping in September 2011. The second line was in use by October 2012. The completed cost of the two lines was $14.4 billion. Nordstream 1 stretches under the Baltic Sea from Vyborg on Gulf of Finland in Russia to Greifswald in northeastern Germany. It is 51 percent owned by the Russian energy company Gazprom. Four European countries participated in its ownership, construction, and costs including Wintershall Dea (Germany), PEG Infrastructure (Switzerland), Engie (UK), and Netherlands Gasunie. It had been transporting more than 55 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year until the recent sabotage
Nordstream 2 is a 767-mile double 4-foot diameter line natural gas pipeline laid very near Nordstream 1. It was completed in September 2021 and cost $11 billion to plan and build over 10 years. It stretches from Narva Bay, also on the Gulf of Finland, in Russia to Greifswald, Germany. It is 51 percent owned by the Russian energy company Gazprom. Five European countries participated in costs and ownership including Royal Dutch Shell, Engie (UK), OMV (Austria), Uniper (Germany), and Wintershall Dea (Germany). It has the same nominal capacity as Nordstream 1, doubling the total Nordstream pipelines capability to 110 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year. However, due to the tensions with the Russian Federation over Ukraine, it has had only nominal use. Both Nordstream 1 and 2 pipelines are at a depth of 262 to 361 feet beneath the surface of the Baltic Sea and protected by heavy concrete.
The total cost of Nordstream 1 and 2 has accumulated to $25.4 billion, of which nearly $13 billion has been borne by the Russian owned Gazprom company. According to Russian sources, there are sophistical methods of detecting sabotage or irregularities along the pipeline. The western area of the Baltic Sea is also monitored by the Danish and Swedish navies. Recently, the U.S. Navy held joint training exercises with the Swedish and Finnish navies.
John Helmer is probably the longest continuously serving independent Western foreign correspondent in Russia. A former professor of political science originally associated with the Carter Administration, he has also been an adviser to government heads of state in Greece and Asia. But most importantly, his unique personal knowledge of Russian past and current events and sources and long-term experience on Russian foreign affairs gives his commentary substantial credibility. In a recent article originally entitled Dances with Bears, he summarized his thinking:
“The military operation on Monday night which fired munitions to blow holes in the Nord Stream I and Nord Stream II pipelines on the Baltic Sea floor, near Bornholm Island, was executed by the Polish Navy and Special Forces.”
He added that it was “planned and coordinated with US intelligence and technical support: and approved by the Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.” Somehow Danish and Swedish surveillance of the pipelines had to be evaded.
Helmer was undoubtedly influenced by his memory that in April 2021 a Polish force tried to sabotage Russian vessels laying the gas pipes for Nordstream 2 near Bornholm. The Russians, however, were able to force a Polish retreat.
Moreover, Poland’s former Defense and Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski celebrated the recent Nordstream blowup:
“As we say in Polish, a small thing, but so much joy. Thank you USA.”
Biden’s ambassador in Warsaw is also backing Sikorski’s Civic Platform party to replace Morawiecki in elections next year.
In January and February 2022, the Biden Administration had clearly threatened to prevent Nordstream 2 from operating if the Russians invaded Ukraine.
On January 27, when reporters were asking U.S. Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland about Germany’s acute need for natural gas versus enforcing NATO sanctions against Russian natural gas, she warned:
"We continue to have strong, clear communication with our German allies. If Russia invades Ukraine, one way or another, Nord Stream 2 will not move forward."
On February 9, President Biden warned even more ominously:
"If Russia invades, that means tanks and troops crossing the border of Ukraine again, then there will be no longer a Nord Stream 2. We will bring an end to it."
When asked how, Biden said: "We will. I promise you. We will be able to do that."
On 24 February 2022, Russia did invade Ukraine in a major re-escalation of the Russia-Ukraine War, which began in 2014 following the Maidan violent mob-overthrow of an elected pro-Russian Ukrainian president and growing secessionist sentiment in the pro-Russian, predominantly Russian ethnic Donbas region. Many believe the Maidan “Revolution” was U.S. State Department, CIA, and British MI6 orchestrated. Victoria Nuland is suspected of being a key NATO-State Department official involved in this regime change.
According to the German Das Spiegel magazine, the CIA notified German and other NATO officials in late June that sabotage attempts might occur on the Nordstream pipelines.
Despite Biden’s own threats in February to end the Nordstream 2 pipeline, on September 30, he strongly implied that the Russians were the guilty party and said, "It was a deliberate act of sabotage and the Russians are pumping out disinformation and lies." Biden then referred to a planned investigation, but a partisan investigation would only be propaganda.
The Americans, Russians, and probably the British had special operations capable surface ships and submarines in the Baltic within days of the sabotage. The USS Kearsarge (LHD-3), an 843-foot amphibious assault ship, something like a small aircraft carrier, carrying both fixed wing and helicopter aircraft, has been training with the Swedish and Finnish navies. The Kearsarge has a Navy crew over 1,200 and is capable of special operations as well as an amphibious assault of 2,000 Marines. The Russians have a major naval base on the Baltic at Kaliningrad, an 86-square mile part of the Russian Federation sandwiched on the Baltic coast between Poland and Lithuania. The Kaliningrad base includes a variety of ships, submarines, and aircraft capable of special operations.
But how likely is it that Vladimir Putin would deliberately destroy critical energy infrastructure that cost the Russians over 10 years of hard work and negotiations and $14 billion in Russian finances to build? It was not only a past but also a potentially future major source of Russian trade and wealth. Moreover, his ability to turn the pipelines on and off and on again was his main leverage in influencing Germany and other European Union countries to drop their sanctions against Russia and stop sending weapons and munitions to Ukraine. He probably considered this an essential leverage to Russian victory.
But destroying Putin’s pipeline leverage by destroying the pipelines could be a humanitarian disaster for Germany and several other European nations. Humanitarian disasters like freezing, starvation, and sudden poverty caused by politicians usually have significant political consequences. It could badly fracture NATO loyalties and breakup the already unpopular and bossy European Union.
Polls in Germany do not reflect Biden’s and his captive media’s assertions that the Russians planned and executed the Nordstream sabotage. German unrest was already high with several recent massive rallies against deep and widespread German and EU suffering for the sake of Ukraine.
Fortunately for Poland, the new Norway to Poland Pipeline, passing through the Danish pipeline system, should give Poland energy security independent from Russian leverage. Yet the timing is certainly so favorable as to be suspicious. Poland has been desperate for about 17 years to keep Germany from compromising its energy independence and everybody else’s by relying so heavily on Russia. U.S. President Trump had also been very concerned about potential German reliance on Russian energy. Germany had put itself in such a position by adopting extremely unwise energy policies—similar to Biden policies—based on false climate change ideology.
The Nordstream sabotage could be considered an act of war against Russia on one end and Germany on the other. The sabotage to such expensive and critical infrastructure could be compared to a surprise Pearl Harbor Attack on energy assets rather than naval assets. Let us hope we do not see a trend of devastating infrastructure retaliations.
If the United States was involved, the German people are likely to consider being forced to sacrifice their critical needs to satisfy American objectives in Ukraine as humiliating. The next German government may not be friendly to American foreign policy.
I find the allegation that the Russians blew up their own pipelines in some fifth dimensional chess play absurd. If the United States was to blame, the consequences will soon show its utter stupidity. What I find sensible is former President Trump’s call for immediate negotiations. Negotiations should target a reasonable, transparent, and just peace and future prosperity for ordinary people. More or less visible, the greed for empire and power infects both sides, but it needs to be set aside. Yet the task is above our natural abilities. Surely we should turn and seek the mind and will of God, the Author of Truth and benevolent Wisdom. We are teetering on the edge of nuclear or disastrous cyber warfare dismantling civilization and jeopardizing millions of lives.