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Hersh unveils US' long sabotage plot

By ZHAO MANFENG | CHINA DAILY/XINHUA | Updated: 2023-03-28 06:56

White House considered possibility of blowing up Nord Stream pipelines in 2021

The United States had a longstanding plan to bring an end to the Nord Stream gas pipelines connecting Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea, said Seymour Hersh, an investigative journalist who first revealed that the US is the mastermind behind the explosions.

In an interview with China Daily, the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter said the sabotage of the pipelines has thrown Europe into an energy crisis, with gas prices skyrocketing and some countries being forced to ration their supplies.

Hersh said US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan was in contact with potential executors of the operation when US authorities were considering the possibility of pipeline blasts in late 2021 before Christmas.

On Sept 26, Nord Stream 1 and 2 were hit by unexplained blasts in what Moscow called an act of international terrorism.

Hersh noted that US President Joe Biden said on Feb 7 last year in a news conference that the US would "bring an end" to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline if there were "tanks or troops crossing the border of Ukraine".

When pressed for details on how he would keep that promise given that the pipeline is not under US control, Biden told reporters: "I promise you, we will be able to do it."

Hersh added that Biden's phrase of ending Nord Steam before the Russia-Ukraine conflict was all on television, stating that "it was no secret" that Biden was opposed to the pipelines, while "those people in the Western press seemed to have forgotten that phrase".

As the conflict was not going well by late fall, there was a possibility that it would end up being a stalemate. "The president was afraid that (German) Chancellor (Olaf) Scholz was not wanting to put more guns and more arms. That's all. I don't know whether it was an anger or punishment," Hersh said.

"But the net effect is that, it cut off a major power source through Western Europe."

Hersh said Europe is in a crisis now, with people in France paying five times as much for electricity and the French government going to reopen two nuclear power plants that were shut down due to safety concerns.

"So down the road this summer and fall, it's going to be very difficult for Biden. He's going to get a lot of criticism for what he did, that's for sure," Hersh said.

In his article published on Feb 8, he cited an anonymous source with direct knowledge of the operation, claiming that US Navy divers planted explosives that destroyed three of the four Nord Stream pipelines.

Hersh said the US has always been disturbed by Russian gas and oil sales to Western Europe since the Cold War, and believed that Moscow was weaponizing energy.

"So it wouldn't have surprised me one bit when I first heard it," said Hersh, adding that he was not surprised at the stupidity of what the US administration did when he first heard that the Nord Stream pipelines were bombed at Biden's order.

Hersh gained recognition in 1969 for exposing the My Lai Massacre during the Vietnam War, for which he received the Pulitzer Prize in international reporting in 1970.

During the 1970s, Hersh covered the Watergate scandal for The New York Times, and also reported on the secret US bombing of Cambodia and the CIA's domestic spying program. In 2004, he detailed the US military's torture and abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq for The New Yorker.

Possible compensation?

Moscow may seek compensation over damage from last year's explosions on the Nord Stream gas pipelines, news agency RIA Novosti reported on Monday, citing a Russian diplomat.

"We do not rule out the later raising of the issue of compensation for damage as a result of the explosion of the Nord Stream gas pipelines," Dmitry Birichevsky, the head of Russia's Foreign Ministry department for economic cooperation, said in an interview.

Birichevsky also said the future of the pipelines was not clear.

Agencies via Xinhua contributed to this story.

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