As is well known, in war the truth is the first casualty, and so it is in the Ukraine war. Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, politics and the mainstream in the press, radio and TV have been conducting an unprecedented game of confusion, combined with disinformation and agitation.
Interjection of a judge – Nord Stream 1 and 2, the difficult fight for the truth
by Peter Vonnahme
[This article posted on March 23, 2023 is translated from the German on the Internet, Zwischenruf eines Richters – Nord Stream 1 und 2, der schwierige Kampf um die Wahrheit.]
Zwischenruf eines Richters – Nord Stream 1 und 2, der schwierige Kampf um die Wahrheit
If you, dear reader, expect a final answer to the question of who is responsible for the destruction of the gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea, then read no further. Because this question cannot be answered seriously at the moment. But already now, the example of the blowing up of Nord Stream 1 and 2 can be used to show how the search for truth is misguided. The basic evil is the one-eyedness of Western foreign policy. It is favored by the servile attitude of a large part of the German media. By Peter Vonnahme, former judge at the Bavarian Administrative Court.
When in doubt, always the Russian…
As is well known, in war the truth is the first casualty, and so it is in the Ukraine war. Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, politics and the mainstream in the press, radio and TV have been conducting an unprecedented game of confusion, combined with disinformation and agitation. The scenario is based on a simple world view. In case of doubt, Putin is always the bad guy, or at least his country is to blame for the political crises of the present.
This was not always the case. There was a time when German hearts flew to the Russian Mikhail Gorbachev. People gratefully acknowledged that the Soviet Union had made German reunification possible. Outward signs of the political thaw were the withdrawal of Soviet occupation troops from the former East Germany and the beginning of fruitful economic cooperation. The crippling postwar period had not been forgotten, but the Soviet Union had become a respectable partner for the Germany of the fading Kohl era. For their part, Soviet citizens were willing not to hold against postwar Germany the crimes of the Nazi era, with 27 million dead. Under Chancellor Schröder, relations between the two countries were further deepened – much to the displeasure of the United States. The basic friendly mood between Germany and Russia did not last. Under American guidance, Russia was soon nagged again and old reservations were reactivated. However, Putin did not make it difficult for the critics either.
In the last decade, it was drilled into us Germans that the Russians were addicted to war and that they could be trusted with any outrage. Today, this image is deeply embedded in the minds of many people and influences their view – also of the Nord Stream 1 and 2 blow-ups. When it comes to the search for perpetrators, the gaze is involuntarily directed toward Russia. Conversely, this means that the Western states and their pet child Selenskyj are prematurely eliminated from the circle of suspects. Because – as we have learned – they stand for the good and the right, always and everywhere.
Finding the truth
But the world is not that simple. If you want to understand, you have to take the trouble to look a little closer. In the search for truth, it is helpful to follow established judicial review routines. First, it is important to gather as much and as widely dispersed information as possible. Then, these must be reviewed for plausibility and weighted according to their importance. It is essential that the same standards always be applied to evaluations. Example: If Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is measured against international law, it goes without saying that this also applies to all wars under American leadership. Otherwise, one becomes untrustworthy. Personal convictions naturally play a role in the search for truth. However, this does no harm if the seeker makes it clear where he stands on the basis of his life experience and values, because then the other participants can critically examine the persuasiveness of his arguments.
I have made my position in the conflict Ukraine/Russia/Germany/USA clear several times, especially in the essays “Schlussbilanz eines “Putin-Verstehers””, “Selenskyj – Held oder Zündler?” or most recently in “Zeitenwende – Das falsche Wort zur falschen Zeit vom falschen Mann”. These and other texts can be found easily on the Internet. I strive for objectivity and do not claim to know the last truth in all controversial questions. Because I am still on the search and accept that I make myself attackable with my today’s estimate.
What happened on September 26, 2022?
That night, near the Danish island of Bornholm in the Baltic Sea, three of four strands of the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines running from Russia to Germany were destroyed by explosions. Nord Stream is a joint Russian-German project with significant participation by the Gazprom Group and German companies. The aim was to secure Germany’s long-term energy supply at a cost in the double-digit billions. Schröder and Merkel and the German business community stood for this. For years, this worked to the advantage of both countries (security of supply, quality, favorable price). Ukraine, Poland, the Baltic states and above all the USA followed this with growing unease.
Then Russia invaded Ukraine in violation of international law. This was followed by sanctions against Russia and finally, on September 26, the destruction of the pipelines in the Baltic Sea – perpetrators unknown. It is unclear whether a repair of the pipe system is possible. The gas shortage caused by the blast was covered in Germany with coal, expensive LNG gas from the U.S. and Qatar, and the extension of the operating lives of outdated nuclear power plants – an undertaking that was as damaging to the environment as it was costly.
Search for perpetrators
To date, no one has claimed responsibility for the attack. Swedish experts are certain that the act of sabotage required capabilities only available to states, such as submarines, large quantities of explosives, naval divers and expertise.
Version 1: Perpetrator Russia
When the gas flowing from the blasted pipe system was still churning up the Baltic Sea, Selenskyj immediately had it declared that the gas leak was the result of “a terrorist attack planned by Russia.” Evidence of this has not been provided to date. As was to be expected, the leading Western media also immediately blamed Russia for the attack. This was dubious, but it followed the tried and tested pattern of “the Russian did it.” A modicum of analytical thinking would have sufficed to recognize that this explanation is illogical: Why would Russia destroy its own pipelines, built at a cost of billions? This is absurd because Putin – if he had wanted to – could have cut off Germany from Russian gas much more quickly and easily by turning off the gas taps in Russia. And why should Moscow give up its option to revive the lucrative gas business without necessity?
Conclusion: Russia’s culpability is unlikely.
Version 2: Perpetrator USA
The search for the perpetrator must therefore continue. Anyone who watches “Tatort” on TV knows how this happens. Investigating authorities ask – as the ancient Romans did 2,000 years ago – in such a situation: Cui bono? Who benefits from the crime? If one does that tentatively here as well, it becomes clear that the U.S. is the big beneficiary of a destruction of Nord Stream. The U.S. administration’s thinking is obvious: First, it would deprive the Russian military budget of billions from the gas deal and increase the likelihood of a Russian defeat on the Ukrainian battlefield. The consequence of this would be that Russia would fall behind as a competitor in the strategic competition among the great powers.
In addition, economic interests play an important role. US Secretary of State Tony Blinken admitted it himself a few days after the blasts. Indeed, he said that the U.S. is now “the leading supplier of LNG gas to Europe” and that “there is a tremendous opportunity to end Europe’s dependence on Russian energy once and for all.” U.S. LNG exports to Europe, after all, have risen from 19 percent to 60 percent since 2021.
But basically, there is no need to speculate about the U.S. motives, because U.S. President Joe Biden spoke plainly on February 7, 2022, during Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s inaugural visit. He said in no uncertain terms that if Russia attacked Ukraine, Washington would put an end to Nord Stream 2. Asked by a journalist how he planned to do that, Biden replied tersely, “I assure you, we will be able to do it.” The German chancellor sat next to him and grinned. Whether he was privy to Biden’s plan to destroy the main artery of Germany’s energy supply is not known. This raises serious questions about the criminal responsibility of those named; significantly, these questions have not been raised by the Federal Prosecutor’s Office.
None of this, of course, is proof of U.S. perpetration or of Scholz’s complicity, but it does raise serious suspicions. Others were not so careful with their conclusions. Polish ex-Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski commented laconically on the news of the tubes’ detonation, “Thank you, America!” The British head of government at the time, Liz Truss, left it at a dry and meaningful “It’s done”.
Conclusion: There is a lot to be said for the responsibility of the USA, be it as perpetrator or instigator or accomplice.
The great silence
German politics kept a low profile. The media mainstream, which is usually quick to point the finger of blame at Russia, reacted with remarkable restraint. They invoked the presumption of innocence and agreed on the formula that they would have to wait for the results of the investigation. But the results were not forthcoming. Month after month passed until an event hit like a bomb.
On February 8, 2023, the legendary American investigative journalist Seymour Hersh (winner of the Pulitzer Prize, revelator of U.S. war crimes in the Vietnam War and the Iraq War) accused the U.S. of perpetration of the act of sabotage. According to Hersh’s account, the U.S. government wanted to prevent Germany from restarting the (blocked) pipelines in the event of an energy shortage, thereby stabbing Ukraine in the back. Therefore, he said, the government decided to “let [Germany] freeze.” Hersh backed up his crime accusation with Biden’s unequivocal announcement of destruction (see above).
According to Hersh, U.S. Navy divers secretly attached explosive devices to Nord Stream gas pipelines under the guise of a NATO Baltic Sea maneuver in June 2022. These were then detonated in a time-delayed, remote-controlled manner by means of a radio buoy dropped from a Norwegian reconnaissance aircraft, he said. In addition to Biden, his National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, Secretary of State Tony Blinken, Department Director Victoria Nuland, and CIA Director William Burns were involved in the planning. In addition, he said, Denmark and officers from NATO candidate Sweden were aware of the planning. Hersh refers to a source “with direct knowledge of operational planning”; he understandably could not name names. American and Norwegian agencies rejected the Hersh report as a fabrication. They accuse Hersh of violating journalistic standards of care by relying on only one anonymous source. Western media were initially concerned and remained silent.
Whether Hersh’s revelation is true, I do not know. But I can judge that his report is factual, detailed and coherent, a strong indication of credibility. Given Hersh’s international reputation and the fact that his previous research on sensitive issues has proven to be reliable, there is no discernible reason to distrust him here.
The bottom line is that the U.S. is under suspicion and is under massive pressure to justify itself.
Newly kindled interest
While silence prevailed for months prior to the Hersh Report, it now came thick and fast. On February 21, Jeffrey D. Sachs, an economics professor at Columbia University, testified before the UN Security Council on the destruction of the Nord Stream pipeline. He called it an act of international terrorism and a threat to world peace. He said there were only a few actors with the technical capacity to commit such an act and the necessary access to the Baltic Sea, namely Russia, the United States, the United Kingdom, Poland, Norway, Germany, Denmark and Sweden; Ukraine was not among them. It is the responsibility of the UN Security Council to locate the perpetrator and bring him before international justice, he said.
According to reports, Denmark, Germany, and Sweden have conducted investigations into the attack. However, results have not been made public. Sweden refused to share its findings with Russia and to conduct a joint investigation with Denmark and Germany.
On March 7, German and U.S. media (“New York Times” and a research team from ARD, SWR, and “Zeit”) came up with an alternative crime version of the attack. The reports were based on anonymous U.S. government sources and on unconfirmed investigations by German authorities. According to them, a six-member “pro-Ukrainian group” is said to be responsible for the crime. The team – consisting of a captain, a doctor, two divers and two diving assistants – committed the crime single-handedly with the help of a sailing yacht rented in Rostock. The yacht belongs to a Ukrainian company based in Poland. Traces of explosives were found on the ship. It was explicitly emphasized that there were no indications of involvement of Ukrainian President Selenskyj and his close entourage, nor that any state had been involved.
Attempt at Classification
No evidence has been presented by Seymour Hersh or the research teams. So the guesswork must continue. The fact that the investigators themselves admitted that no evidence of state actors had been found takes much of the persuasiveness out of their version of the crime. For until now, experts have agreed that the act of sabotage requires capabilities that only states have. It is therefore not very plausible that the yacht crew indicated had these capabilities. Even if they did, the question would still remain as to whether or on what behalf they were acting. Therefore, the Hersh story is much more plausible. Somehow, the suspicion suggests itself that the alternative version of the crime served one purpose above all – to take the US government, which was under urgent suspicion, out of the fire. This is also supported by the chronological sequence: first a long, icy silence and then a transparent diversionary maneuver at exactly the right moment. It is also strange that while the media speculated about the possibilities of the technical execution of the blast, the usual reference to the fact that the deliberate destruction of other people’s property is a serious crime was completely omitted. The fact that the unknown perpetrators were obviously concerned with causing serious damage to Russia does not make them heroes. They are and remain criminals.
To sum up, we are still in the realm of conjecture. We would be further along if politicians and the media took seriously their task of seeking even uncomfortable truths. They have failed to do so. They probably feared that all too precise research would scratch the paint of the good guys.