“How Stupid Do They Think We Are?” Nord Stream Pipelines Bombing Edition

It’s instructive to see how having a captured press, plus having well-seeded the public with fables about Ukraine derring-do, allows the Administration and its co-conspirators to run intelligence-insulting stories. A colleague who describes himself as possessing sang froid somewhere between that of a Chinese sage and a dead dog was irate over the latest howler, that of stories in the New York Times and German press, released in very close proximity to each other, presenting the Nord Stream pipelines bombings as the doings of a mysterious pro-Ukraine group.

What got my friend’s dander up wasn’t just the ridiculousness of the claim, but als the suspicious media footprints. The German and New York Times stories came out so close to each other, with the New York Times piece presenting itself as completely independently sourced, that they were clearly coordinated. As we’ll explain, the German stories, with Die Zeit first out of the gate, relied on reports from German prosecutors. The New York Times piece did not mention German reports or German officials, but instead cited only US officials.

I’m told by German speakers that the summary in Politico is accurate. The “Ukraine link” part is awfully slippery, since rental of a Ukrainian owned ship does not establish the owners were in on the plot. From Politico:

German prosecutors have found “traces” of evidence indicating that Ukrainians may have been involved in the explosions that blew up the Nord Stream gas pipelines in September 2022, according to German media reports Tuesday.

Investigators identified a boat that was potentially used for transporting a crew of six people, diving equipment and explosives into the Baltic Sea in early September. Charges were then placed on the pipelines, according to a joint investigation by German public broadcasters ARD and SWR as well as the newspaper Die Zeit.

The German reports said that the yacht had been rented from a company based in Poland that is “apparently owned by two Ukrainians.”….

According to the investigation by German public prosecutors that is cited by the German outlets, the team which placed the explosive charges on the pipelines was comprised of five men — a captain, two divers and two diving assistants — as well as one woman doctor, all of them of unknown nationality and operating with false passports. They left the German port of Rostock on September 6 on the rented boat, the report said.

Contrast this with the New York Times version in Intelligence Suggests Pro-Ukrainian Group Sabotaged Pipelines, U.S. Officials Say. As we wil show as we go through the article, it states that this “intelligence” was developed separately from the European investigations:

New intelligence reviewed by U.S. officials suggests that a pro-Ukrainian group carried out the attack on the Nord Stream pipelines last year, a step toward determining responsibility for an act of sabotage that has confounded investigators on both sides of the Atlantic for months…

Ukraine and its allies have been seen by some officials as having the most logical potential motive to attack the pipelines.

How cute is this? Pro-Ukraine covers a huge amount of terrain, including the Poles, who John Helmer argued were the perps. And the Times manages to skip over that the US was the biggest, as well as baddest, opponent to the pipelines.

And then the Times admits that this “intelligence” is sketchy:

U.S. officials declined to disclose the nature of the intelligence, how it was obtained or any details of the strength of the evidence it contains. They have said that there are no firm conclusions about it, leaving open the possibility that the operation might have been conducted off the books by a proxy force with connections to the Ukrainian government or its security services.

And this “intel” did not come from the European investigations:

A spokeswoman for the C.I.A. declined to comment. A spokesman for the White House’s National Security Council referred questions about the pipelines to the European authorities, who have been conducting their own investigations.

Needless to say, the Twitterverse treated this news with the respect it deserved:

Recall that even though the US has succeeded in burying the Sy Hersh story depicting Biden and his top foreign policy officials as the instigators of the bombing, it’s gotten traction in Germany.

The timing of the sudden discovery of “new” US intelligence at the same time German prosecutors leaked (or were unable to stop leaks) about their finding is miraculously convenient. In fact, it appears to be not at all new. But now that information is coming out from channels the US does not control fully, it looks to have gone into “Get in front of a mob and call it a parade” mode:

Moon of Alabama provided a more detailed takedown, relying on the Die Zeit account:

The new claim is that some rather small sailing yacht, which would not even be able to carry the necessary equipment to perform such a deed, was the main instrument in this:

Following joint research by [German main public TV news unit] (ARD’s capital city studio), the ARD political magazine Kontraste, [German public TV] SWR and DIE ZEIT, it was possible to reconstruct to a large extent in the course of the investigation how and when the explosive attack was prepared. According to this, traces lead in the direction of Ukraine. However, investigators have so far found no evidence of who ordered the destruction.

Specifically, according to information from [these news sources], investigators have managed to identify the boat that was presumably used for the secret operation. It is said to be a yacht rented from a company based in Poland, apparently owned by two Ukrainians. The clandestine operation at sea is said to have been carried out by a team of six people, according to the investigation. It is said to have involved five men and one woman. According to the report, the group consisted of a captain, two divers, two diving assistants and a female doctor, who are said to have transported the explosives to the crime scenes and placed them there. The nationality of the perpetrators is apparently unclear. The assassins used professionally forged passports, which are said to have been used, among other things, to rent the boat.According to the investigation, the commando set sail from Rostock on September 6, 2022. The equipment for the clandestine operation was previously transported to the port in a van, it is said. In the further course, the investigators succeeded in locating the boat the following day again in Wieck (Darß) and later at the Danish island Christiansø, northeast of Bornholm, according to the research. The yacht was subsequently returned to the owner in uncleaned condition. On the table in the cabin, the investigators were able to detect traces of explosives, according to the research. According to information from [the mentioned news sources], a Western intelligence service is said to have sent a tip to European partner services as early as in the fall, i.e. shortly after the destruction, according to which a Ukrainian commando was responsible for the destruction. Thereafter, there have allegedly been further intelligence indications suggesting that a pro-Ukrainian group could be responsible.

No. You do not dive down to 80+ meter for an industrial size job, involving the placement of hundreds of pounds of explosives in eight individual charges on very sturdy pipelines, from a sparsely manned sailing boat. Such deep dives require special gases, special breathing equipment, special training, a decompression chamber for emergencies and lots of well trained people to maintain all that stuff.

This is just more chaff thrown up to divert the attention from Seymour Hersh’s revelations that the U.S. military, under order from the White House, carried out the sabotage act.

There is the cynical take that the “blame it on people who like Ukraine” is meant to weaken Ukraine support. That seems unlikely. Pinning blame on mystery operatives with superpowers turns scrutiny as far as possible from government actors, and the big point is to exculpate the US, particularly its top brass. Conveniently, that sort of caper is such a staple of action movies that great swathes of the public have been pre-programmed to believe it.

But the alleged “link” may still blunt Germany sympathy for Ukraine:

Before you get your hopes up, until Robert Habeck and Annelina Baerbock get lobotomies, I don’t see German policy changing. They are diehard hawks and still very much in the driver’s seat.

It’s clearly the US hope that this deflection will make the Nord Stream “whodunit” go away. But Sy Hersh was already promising more stories on this case, and this mini-barrage gives him additional grist. Pass the popcorn.

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  1. Nealser

    Media mission accomplished. The first reports have been repeated unchallenged by broadcaster in Ireland RTE, “US officials.. New York times report…”. No context, no mention of Sy Hersh reporting.

    1. Bjarne

      I don’t know… people have seriously stopped believing the mainstream media. That Rasmussen report on 1/6 that has 61% of the American populace believing its likely the Feds incited the events of that day, even after years of propaganda (and that was before Tucker Carlson’s new reporting on the cc footage), tells us people don’t believe these info hustlers anymore.

      Its telling also, aside from the absurdity of the claims, that they’re only coming out with their whodunit caper a month after Hersh’s article, and almost 6 months after the bombing itself. So we’re supposed to understand they knew all this before but are only coming out with it now because…

      1. t

        People have increasingly said they don’t believe the US media, especially if they believe for instance Alex Jones or Tim Pool, but they sure do seem to believe through major narratives around crime and the deficit.

        1. kam

          Well… this new Fiction surpasses Biden’s story that some Teen Age Kids did the deed during Spring Break.

        2. hunkerdown

          Those narratives drive major moments in Western society, like the working class getting out of bed in the morning and showing up on time. They’re sacred in a society devoted to Slave rental wage labor.

      2. Pelham

        The disbelief in media is encouraging. But what’s next? What can we do about it? Maybe nothing.

    2. Nikkikat

      I believe the original story I read included Hersh. It was the last couple of paragraphs after the big lie. They smeared Hersh. That was the whole point I think. Making sure to try and create questions regarding the truthfulness of his reporting. Here’s hoping he comes out with some more reporting. This should blow up in their faces, I love the part where the saboteurs returned the boat in an unclean condition. Like a fairy tale this mysterious group left bread crumbs for the investigators.

    3. Telee

      We should never doubt the veracity of the NYT. Always accurate, they had a huge scoop after the US dropped atomic bombs on Japan. At the top of page one, using the biggest lettering available, NYT proclaimed that the atomic bombs did not result in any radioactivity. They have an excellent record in truth telling. Or consider the daily front page articles leading up to the Iraq War where they verified that Iraq were purifying uranium and was close to having nuclear weopons. They were spot with that as well. What’s to question?

  2. Sibiryak

    The “Ukraine link” narrative was already being promoted by Fiona Hill a couple of weeks ago:

    Initially, I did think it was the Russians [who blew up the Nord Stream 2 pipeline]. There was just so much about the whole eruption that reminded me of the kind of sabotage the Soviets undertook during the Second World War, and that Putin’s father was actually engaged in during the siege of Leningrad. He talks a lot about how his father was part of a destruction battalion, going behind enemy lines and getting rid of any infrastructure the enemy could use. And there was just something about the way Putin talked about it that made me think the Russians did this — that they think this will teach the West a lesson.

    Now, I’m not so sure. I don’t believe it was the United States. If the United States had done that, by now, somebody would have laid claim to this. The United States can be a leaky sieve in terms of information.

    Some of my colleagues who have been looking at this think Ukraine could have done it.
    And this isn’t implausible, because they already managed to launch a pretty significant strike on the Kerch (Crimean) Bridge, but I haven’t seen any evidence.

    [….]I wasn’t sure they could have had the capacity. But it’s possible that Ukraine could have found a way of doing this: we’ve seen them be extremely inventive. But I just want to make it very clear that I absolutely do not know who carried this out. And I think that we actually should continue to look at this. And I’m certainly ready to concede that my initial suspicion that it was the Russians is wrong.

    — UnHerd, February 22, 2023

    1. Ignacio

      One day Biden and Scholtz have a semi-secretive meeting and the following day, ziiing! We have traces! They were Ukrainians! Simultaneously in US and German media!
      Clearly the objectives are the German populace and Scholtz is very much worried about what are they thinking. Please Biden, come on give me a push on this, after all it was your fault. Pathetic.

      Yet it might perversely (for the incumbents) have the opposite effect.

    2. Victor Sciamarelli

      This is not new; more psych-ops I suppose. On April 3, 2017, a bomb exploded in the Saint Petersburg metro station; 16 Russians were killed and dozens injured. Numerous American reports claimed Putin must have planted the bomb.

      1. Paradan

        Wasn’t there also an apartment building that got blown up and collapsed, and they said Putin did it?

        1. fjallstrom

          Are you refering to the 1999 Russian apartment bombings that was part of the start of the second war in Chechnya?

          If so, I would like to point out that at in 1999, western media claimed that the Russian state narrative – that it was Chechen rebels – was trustworthy and claims to the opposite was a sign of a conspiracy riddled brain. Years later (around 2010 iirc), western media switched and now claimed the opposite. As I followed the issue in 1999, I can with certainty say that the evdence presented in 2010 (ish) was the same as the evidence ignored in 1999.

          This isn’t a statement for or against any theory. That is a 9/11-esque rabbit hole I prefer not to go down again. My point is simply that when Putin was “our man in Russia” (which he was in 1999) the exact same evidence was seen form the opposite side.

          1. R.S.

            My point is simply that when Putin was “our man in Russia” (which he was in 1999) the exact same evidence was seen form the opposite side.

            Yep. Putin wasn’t even a president back then. The “inside job” narrative really kicked into gear in 2002. It was heavily peddled by Berezovsky and his associates, Litvinenko, Felshtinsky and the like.

    3. Col 'Sandy' Volestrangler (ret)

      Someone should tell Fiona Hill that the Soviets were not exactly renowned for rear area sabotage missions. That was Brtiain, (SAS, LRDG) Germany (Brandenburgers) and the United States (OSS). The Soviets supplied guerrilla fighters who did yeoman service but they were not much into James Bond style grand gestures.

  3. eg

    I’m not sure whether to characterize this feeble attempt at distraction from what Hersh has already exposed as desperation or arrogance.

    1. Sibiryak

      I’m not sure it’s so feeble.

      1) The biggest weakness in the official narrative was the suggestion that Russia might have blown up its own pipeline. Now, at least, there is an officially acceptable suspect with a more believable motive.

      2) It’s far less outrageous and politically explosive that some Ukrainians (rogue actors) might have blown up the pipeline, compared to the US doing it with Norway’s help (NATO states attacking another NATO state).

      I think this new narrative may, to a large degree, fulfill its purpose of providing a sellable alternative to the Hersh story.

      1. OnceWereVirologist

        Not having even a second of diving experience to go on, I don’t want to be too inflexible but until an ex-SEAL/deepsea drilling rig diver goes on record with a step-by-step explainer on how its actually not so difficult to explosively demolish buried pipelines 75 m down off the back of a civilian yacht then I’m going to go with my initial naive suspicion – that the explanation is very feeble indeed.

        1. Sibiryak

          Of course it’s feeble as an explanation, but it may not be so feeble as “an attempt at distraction.”

          1. hk

            I agree.

            The stories coming out in the Western press about the progress of the war have been absurd, but realizing how ludicrous they were takes a mixture of some understanding about wars, knowledge of geography, curiosity, and skepticism. It may not take much, but most people don’t have enough. So people may not “buy” the stories, but they are enough to get them from thinking further.

            So the tale concocted in the German and NYT stories might be ludicrous if you know anything about diving, about deep sea pipelines, and demolitions, or at least willing to put some pieces together out of curiosity and/or skepticism. How many people will bother? (I would not have believed this would be possible until I saw Trump/Russia derangement syndrome. These people will believe that Putin hired Anakin Skywalker to order Judas Iscariot to assassinate Willy Wonka…as long as it’s Putin.)

        2. russell1200

          Sorry. That isn’t deep at all.

          Absolutely nothing about this says that this is some sort of complicated deal. Why they keep calling this a heavily patrolled pipeline is beyond me. It clearly is not.

          Before this version of a story came up, I had already said that it had the potential to be done by non-state actors. Not a super likely scenario, but it does buy some separation between agents on the scene and the underwriter.

          If true, it would indicate that Ukraine, with possible (but not necessarily) help from Poland, paid for, or had someone, blow up the pipeline of a country they are at war with that led to a country they are not at war with. Given that Ukraine (unlike just about every other country in the equation except the improbable Russians) seems to be pretty keen on blowing up, assassinating, whatever, their enemies assets, I really don’t understand the pushback.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            I do not recall anyone saying the pipeline was heavily patrolled. The Baltic Sea most assuredly is. I have yet to see anyone credible say that this could be done w/o US knowledge and therefore approval, given that the Baltic Sea is a Sixth Fleet lake.

            1. Polar Socialist

              I don’t think the pipeline was patrolled, but the traffic around Bornholm island is so heavy (140 ships/day) that there are traffic lanes with a separation zone the commercial vessels have to follow.

              While the southern explosion was on the “peaceful” side of the island, the northern explosion location is pretty close to the entry/exit point of the traffic lanes.

          2. Boomheist

            Maybe mentioned elsewhere, but this “new” story essentially in some ways confirms and provides cover for the “US did it” version (near certain proof in my mind that the US and its allies did this) in that it says “Ukrainian allies.” Aren’t the United States and NATO members are Ukrainian allies? Oh and I have a tiny bit of experience working with divers and supporting divers working in shallow water, that is, water up to 40 feet deep. That is, like, 12-13 meters. When you[re down at 70-90 meters, that is deep, requires decompression when coming back up, nearly pitch black down there, the water is cold……I gotta believe this thing was done by an underwater vehicle, not a diver…..

            1. James

              I did a quick google and it seems that conventional scuba divers don’t dive below 40m.

              As the much more knowledgeable people just below this comment have written. Hat tip to them.

            2. Diogenes

              Both Hersh and the NYT are accurate.
              Hersh lays out how it was planned, how Biden ordered it, and how it was detonated.

              NYT lays out the cover story of the “pro-Ukrainian group”–aka Navy frogmen and the CIA–were the perpetrators. Add a yacht story with a female doctor of unknown nationality–a story which the CIA expects no one to believe–and you have the whole truth, which is so intentionally transparent as to appear to be a deliberate CIA diversion.

          3. Ignacio

            I concur with you that regarding some of the capabilities there you can find professionals to do the job not necessarily among military divers. For instance, the people that recollect(ed) red coral in the Mediterranean sea and Atlantic near Gibraltar strait are well used to dive at those depths and more deeply, stay there for some time and do stuff (like manually collecting the coral). But they should learn to manage explosives before. Rogue non-state actors could have done this but you would need to combine different expertises and abilities in a way that might don’t be that easy to find in, let’s say Ukraine, for instance. I find it amusing the German outlet says there is a sail yatch with proof of explosives there, no mention of any other equipment there, no pics of the vessel. For instance, a doctor serves for nothing if you don’t have an hyperbaric chamber on board and those things are large, too large for sail vessels IMO. Also large gas cylinders and nothing like this would pass unnoticed at any port or at sea. I particularly think that a sailboat with little free space above the deck could be the proper choice to such an operation, even by rogue aficionados.

          4. Lex

            To add to all the others have said, The pipelines are heavy gauge steel, coated in reinforced concrete and at least partially buried to guard against anchor drag. So this isn’t like dive down, attach some charges to a bare steel pipe and get out. Most likely it required partial excavation and big shaped charges to actually destroy the pipelines.

        3. Bugs

          I’m an amateur diver. You don’t go any deeper than 40 meters without special equipment and mixed gas. You likely also need a decompression chamber on the boat. The idea that they could bring that weight of explosive down with 2 people and get it in the right place, then remotely trigger it, is pure fantasy. Look at any coastal salvage operation as a comparison. They needed a crew of at the very least 15-20 people to manage it.

          1. Mo

            And at 40 meters a tank of conventional compressed air lasts only a few minutes, being much denser (33 feet of water = 1 atmosphere pressure). I went down to 100ft once, and almost instantly had to start to resurface to do the required decompression stops.

            The water is 40F, huge amount of marine traffic. Would be very little light at that depth. I tried to find a current chart but no luck yet.

            I mean really.

        4. Jack

          Ex-US Navy submariner and PADI certified Divemaster here. There is NO way a group of 5 people on a small sailboat could have managed this. If you spend anytime below 40 meters, 120 ft. you need mixed gas. That is assuming that you are doing a “bounce” dive, meaning no time in a decompression chamber. Additionally, the amount of time you can spend at that depth is very limited with no decompression. Mixed gas diving, or technical diving, is very dangerous. That’s why most commercial divers don’t use it. What they do is use compressed air. They go down, stay down, and then they use a decompression chamber when its time to come back up. This type of diving is not for amateurs. Its a dark, cold, hostile environment that will kill you in a second if you make a mistake.You need to be highly trained and practiced to do something like this. The technical aspects of this type of operation are immense. A sailboat? Any diver will tell you that the efficiency of using a sailboat as a diving platform is marginal at best. They are not designed to be used as a diving platform. Well, yeah, on a sailboat you can put on a tank and do a rec dive in shallow calm waters. I’ve done it. But how do you get back on the boat? At a very minimum you need a swim platform on the stern. Yes, this particular sailboat could have had a platform, but, we are not talking about a single tank rec dive. The amount of equipment that a deep diver has to wear weighs in the hundreds of pounds. Also, this dive was not done in shallow, calm waters. A small sailboat in the open ocean, even when the seas were calm, would rock like crazy when there is no forward motion. And you can’t anchor. Its just too deep. No, 5 “commandos” on a sailboat did not do this. It would be impossible. Here is an article by DAN that will give you some idea of the technical issues involved with this type of diving; https://dan.org/alert-diver/article/anatomy-of-a-commercial-mixed-gas-dive/

          1. David in Santa Cruz

            My only diving experience is a resort course in Belize taught by a retired oil-rig deep diver, but last summer a decent-sized commercial fishing boat went down in 200 feet (60 meters) of water off the island where I’m building my retirement home. It’s located at approximately the same latitude as Börnholm Island and the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

            The recovery operation took months. It’s a small town and one evening I found myself sitting at the bar with a young off-duty “Coastie” who turned out to be the Safety Officer for the recovery of the vessel.

            He explained that divers were cutting away nets so that slings could be attached around the hull. The operation was taking so long due to the fact that at that depth the divers could only work for about 2 hours before having to decompress for 4 before returning to the surface. The dive was supported by a huge barge with a decompression chamber assisted by two tugboats and a Coast Guard cutter. Needless to say, his beers were on me.

            There is no way that 6 clowns with a cargo van and a rented yacht set those explosives. The assertion is beyond ludicrous and shouldn’t have advanced beyond the fact-checker at a high school newspaper.

          2. chris

            Thanks for sharing this. What you’ve said is what my friends who were frogmen or are underwater welders were telling me too.

            I’m sure there are James Bond villain style non-state actors who could have financed and implemented it. But that is so unlikely it makes Hersh’s story seem like the best option a la Occam’s razor. I would like to see the USS Nuland pleasure cruiser that could host such a dive team though…

            At least we’re killing the “Russian’s did it!” narrative with both stories. The stupidest thing about that is if the Russian’s wanted to do it, they could have done so in a way that was much easier to repair and still prevented German use of the pipeline. But since anyone Russian is apparently stupid and insanely evil and incompetent in every field except for election tampering, they must have decided that it would be easier to sabotage their own property in a way that would be difficult to impossible to repair quickly. Yeah. Right.

            1. JTMcPhee

              The Russians could just have turned off the valves and pumps and turbines, siting breach of contract and tortious interference with business by the governments of the customer nations. A lot cleaner, would have avoided spewing millions of cubic feet of methane into the atmosphere. Surprised that the folks who pulled off the demolition missed a trick that would have sharpened the message and further obscured the provenance: ignite the gas where it broke the surface. But that would also have been almost a humanitarian act, since CO2 is what, less than 1/10 as effective as methane as a greenhouse gas.

              1. chris

                Of course they could have turned off the taps! But IF they wanted to sabotage their own pipeline for some reason they had far better options that would have afforded them an easier time to recover.

          3. Ignacio

            Agreed and concur. A sail yacht is not the proper vessel to carry the stuff needed. Particularly the hyperbaric chamber for decompression. Even a 80 feet long yacht. Where do you put it?. But we haven’t been shown the putative vessel, mind you. I wonder why.

          4. Oh

            Your forget these these guys were helped by none other than James Bond who single handedly dove down. planted the explosives and surfaced within a period of a few minutes. Of course he had help from Felix Leiter, Peter Pan and the Tooth Fairy for the mission!

            1. hk

              You forgot Captain Nemo (who’d actually fit the bill…especially in the original version Verne was planning to write–Nemo was supposed to be a Pole, engaged in secret war against Russia and, possibly, Germany, too, but Verne’s editor nixed that idea.)

          5. PsyQuark

            Well, as a diver who does 200ft+ 40F dives with sometimes 10ft vis at least yearly, I could try giving some educated analysis of the feasibility. Admittedly I dive the Great Lakes instead of the Baltic Sea.

            First, I will note that I have only heard reporting claiming a “yacht” was used. That could mean many different size and forms, a number of which could be workable.

            Second, any dive to this depth will be done on rebreather. If it was me, I would enter with the rebreather and have the bailouts, DPV (Dive Propulsion Vehicle), and any other large equipment handed to the divers. And with “support divers” the amount of cylinder’s needed for the primary divers would not be much.

            Third, to these depths, and even to 300ft range, divers would decompress in the water as they ascend. The main limitation is how long they can afford operationally to spend waiting for the divers to return.

            Now I will go over how I would go about this if I was to dive one (1) pipeline.

            First step would be to get in a reasonable proximity to the target, GPS coordinates to start. This is an obvious “state actor” point, dropping a pin on google maps from published maps could easily be a mile off in either direction (without knowing which!). Once I was in the vicinity I would like to have side-scan sonar to identify the exact location and drop a line/marker that is definitely on side of the pipe. An actual dive boat captain would have a better idea and plan.

            After setting a descent line I would have the divers enter, hold on to a tagline, and have the equipment handed down. This is where the question of size and buoyancy of the explosive device matters. I leave it up to the ordinance people on what that involves.

            At this point the the divers would descend, take a heading, and head off with the DPVs hoping to be pointing in the correct direction of the pipeline. Once found, I would send up another DSMB (marker bag) for the support divers to wait on incase needed.

            Placing and arming the device would take some time and again I would defer to the explosives experts on this.

            After the device is planted the ascent would begin. Depending on how long locating and planting the device takes, the total dive time would be anywhere from 1 hour (an unrealistic descent+locate+plant of <20 minutes) to 4 hours (60 minutes to do the same). Longer if the divers are being risk-adverse. That does not include any faffing around looking before and retrieving the divers after.

            All told, we are looking at 2-5+ hours per plant at the location plus a full change of rebreather bottles and absorbent for 4 divers to a 200ft target.

            Planning to do this once would be daring, but possible. Doing it 3-4 times, over likely multiple days is a bit much. And this is just from the diving part.

            1. skippy

              Your comment and Jack’s are astute and relevant of the depth of NC comment.

              Myself was Ocean cert and then military drowning school + shenanigans sort, did things like the tower in New New Hampton back in the day, oh stooped level free diving.

              So anywhy the coordinates of the pipeline would would be on offer from the build of the pipe from engineering to actual dive work and if you could access that data, would have all been sussed due to insurance and compliance demands.

              Anywho this would never have a topside exposure so everything would have been worked around the entry and exit under water, so there is your kit, on the other hand these pipes are built to not explode outward and not anything to do with sudden forces from the outside. So you really don’t need a crate of C-4 to handle in currant and depth to blow it up.

              Then again it could have been a drone ….

              Point is someone wanted to go boom …

      2. ChrisFromGA

        The new narrative is not very plausible, but it is at least possible, sort of in the sense that it is possible for a novice golfer to get a hole-in-one. All it does is create some reasonable doubt.

        Maybe the bigger story is that the Hersh piece was so credible that it forced the blob to respond, by “getting in front of a mob and calling it a parade” as Yves put it so well.

      3. magpie

        You’re right. They had to find a sellable narrative to counter Hersh’s stories. Over the long term, this story is unsustainable, but they don’t worry about that too much.

        I was incredulous they came out with this, but what else could they do?

    2. Samoan

      I’m sure this is so anyone who googles “Nord Stream sabotage” or tries to look into the issue in any way gets confused by these bogus articles claiming some nebulous “pro-Ukraine” group did it. This is meant to muddy the waters around Seymour Hersh’s article and confuse people from the fact that it was obvious from the start that the US did it.

      1. digi_owl

        And this is where our new “AI” bullshit generators come in.

        Any time some unfavorable story comes round, bury it in so much automatic spin that nobody can tell up from down.

        No more risk of some NSA or cyber command grunt leaking stuff down the road, as it is all automated by software now.

    3. Cat Burglar

      As propaganda, the story also propagates the assumptions that the USG is uncertain about who did it, and that there is an investigation.

      But they had the data in hand — just assuming someone else did it — right after it happened, and knew shortly thereafter. But public discussion of any issue — whether it is Saddam’s fictive WMD’s or Israel’s real nukes — must not acknowledge such surveillance capability, even if there is open public knowledge about it, or the ability to lie and deceive could be constrained. There is no investigation, because they know (if they are not the perpetrators themselves). So how long will the pretense be maintained?

      As for the NYT — I don’t get mad at them for doing this, not since reading the notorious “man in a baseball hat” article during the subjugation of Iraq. They tipped their hand then, and showed us their contempt for us — and they deserve the our contempt in spades. As a zoo lion keeper said about all the times he had been mauled, “They are just doing what they do….What are you going to do about these things, get mad?” Lions deserve respect, but not the NYT.

  4. doug

    Such a shoddy tale reeks of desperation. I would have thought they could do better. This bombing was not well thought out.

    1. maria gostrey

      or it could reek of privilege. i am reminded of alex murdaughs initial tales to law enforcement all the way through his lies on the witness stand – the lies were so sloppy because he didnt think he would be held accountable.

    2. James

      doug – I think the objective is to make the Germans accept that they are America’s bitches. The fact that America’s excuses are implausible is a feature not a bug.

      1. Tim

        When the one german congresswoman requested an investigation into the Hersh story and was denied, everyone in Germany knew who they were to the US. Now we’re just screwing with them.

  5. Stephen

    This article says it all! Garland Nixon also summarises it very well.

    My own interpretation / hypothesis is that Scholz complained to Biden when he met him last week that he has been getting pressure from German politicians who are not part of the imperial proxy government in Germany. The Seymour Hersh revelations have been getting traction, as you say.

    So the administration / German deep state have “released” this fairy tale of “pro Ukrainians” in small boats diving into the sea with explosives, totally undetected and so forth. Unfortunately, a large number of propagandised people will lap this up and even treat these people as heroes. Maybe Lindsey Graham will push for them to be found so they can be given medals…..

    Of course, the very idea that “Ukraine” post Maidan even as much as sneezes without its imperial US overlord agreeing and knowing about it immediately is unbelievable too.

    1. The Rev Kev

      I like your idea of how this story may have been a result of the Scholz-Biden meeting. The timing seems right. Scholz would be hoping, as you say, to get his fellow politicians off his back. And Biden? If old Joe is realizing that before too long that he will have to abandon Project Ukraine, then maybe with this story he wants to throw as much of any blame on the Ukrainians as possible. Then three months after the US abandons the Ukraine, you will never hear any more about those pipeline bombings.

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      I think the world reaction is more problematic for Scholz. Would you make a deal with the US or a US based corporation? Back when Snowden revealed NSA spying, it was speculated the US would get eaten alive in the international market because of the realities of corporate espionage.

      We use bullying for weapon sales, but the relative decline for the US in global trade during the teens is a big deal. Now imagine Germany’s position. The long term plan was to sign up for deals for cheap Russian resources and deny resources for industrialization for other countries like India while keeping a tech edge as the EU moves towards a greener future.

      I suspect Scholz may have figured Germany’s economic strength and weaknesses by now, and he’s panicking. The US is likely having a similar problem with its anti-China efforts. My gut is Scholz’s morose visit to DC was a plea for more LNG and to weaken the Inflation Reduction Act. Biden probably said he’s in election and has to keep prices down.

      1. Stephen

        I am sure that is a fair view with respect to Biden / Scholz.

        The pipeline will not have been a primary purpose of the visit. But it could well have been a topic on the list.

        Scholz may be waking up too to the fact that his historical legacy may well be written up as a traitor to Germany. The looming world conflict totally kills the German model of access to resources from Russia and exports of machine tools / other high end manufactures to China.

        Biden is giving Scholz a perfect storm and it is hard to see how he resolves it in a way that does not involve real conflict with the US and a 180 degree turn. Or maybe hope for a more sensible US administration in 2024, which I would not hold my breath on either. Right now, he resembles a total supplicant. Travelling to the imperial court for his one hour audience with the Emperor, if I read the situation correctly.

        My instinct is that at some point Germany (and Europe more broadly) will figure out the game that is being played by the US. It may be too late though to do anything meaningful other than continue to accept vassal status. And many of the elites do resemble some colonial princes of the British Empire who sometimes tried to be more English than the British themselves.

        1. digi_owl

          > exports of machine tools / other high end manufactures to China.

          Until Chinese engineers perfect their copies/alternatives.

          Basic thing is that the post-reunification focus on exports to keep Germany going is running out of steam. The euro may have helped some, expanding EU eastwards may have helped some, but with China rising like it has Germany is rapidly running out of markets to export to.

    1. Acacia

      The NYT… can we just rename it “Unnamed Officials Said…” and stick a fork in it?

    2. Hayek's Heelbiter

      I was a rabid reader of the Old Grey Lady for years, even picking up copy of the bulldog edition at 4 a.m. after I got off work and devouring it before I crashed.
      I stopped reading the OGL (except for comic relief) when it assumed its starring role as bird cage liner after Judith Miller.

      1. some guy

        Here’s an interesting thing about the OGL . . . . they will print some true and valid journalism and reporting as bait to get people to keep reading in hopes they will also consume and absorb the ” Judith Miller” hidden in among the reporting.

      1. digi_owl

        But they will not go beyond that, for fear of the public turning their back on the NATO membership push.

        More and more we are likely seeing the post-cold war vassalization of Europe turning ugly.

        After all, just look at mobile phones. With the introduction of GSM there were at least 5 companies across Europe making handsets. Now they are either gone or Chinese rebrands.

        Sweden can’t even sell their Gripen jet without a ok from DC, thanks to vital components being either licensed or bought from the MIC.

  6. Benny Profane

    This is the first time that the NYT has mentioned the Hersch Substack report, I’m pretty sure, but it was grudgingly mentioned towards the end of the article. Speaking of dueling articles being published at nearly the same time, WAPO suddenly had one on their front page that could almost be a cut and paste of the NYT article, but they just couldn’t stomach mentioning Hersch’s article.
    The comments attached to the NYT article are encouraging. At least there are some people out there not swallowing this male bovine waste whole. WAPO commenters, on the other hand, make me scratch my head. Who are these people? CIA bots?

    In the end, seems like they’re preparing to throw Ukraine over the side on the way to China. Failure is not an option, because there is no failure.

    1. Nikkikat

      I also read the comments, something I rarely bother with as most of these people have drank the koolaid. Shockingly, almost entire comment section was laughing at the story and saying yes, the United States is a pro Ukrainian country. Lol

    2. Ashburn

      Completely agree with you regarding the WaPo commentariat. Where one might presume their readership to be slightly more sophisticated than say, readers of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, that is certainly not the case. Their commenters are generally so sophomoric and credulous of anything that supports the current US Deep State and the DNC line, that it’s embarrassing. I, too, am regularly scratching my head.

      1. Benny Profane

        I got an awesome subscription offer, than I stuck around for a few years. I just cancelled because of my comments getting deleted for no good reason, and the general abuse. It’s a nasty place. Especially for a Democratic party outlet and cheerleader.

  7. NN Cassandra

    I especially like how for a half year there was silence occasionally punctured by “Russia did it” and “we don’t know”, then Hersh publishes his article and suddenly there is flurry of clearly coordinated activity.

    BTW, there is another article from The Times (the British one), where they claim NATO knew it was the Ukrainians week after the explosions and just lied about it. So it seems that while they were able to coordinate the timing of release to the day, the various stories look a bit divergent.

    1. Sibiryak

      Western intelligence agencies almost immediately determined that last year’s Nord Stream blasts had been orchestrated by a person with ties to Ukraine, but chose to conceal this information in order to avoid a diplomatic row between Kiev and Berlin, The Times reported on Wednesday.

      According to the outlet, a Scandinavian delegation learned a week after the September 2022 attack on the gas pipeline, which connects Russia and Germany under the Baltic Sea, that it was staged “by a private venture originating in Ukraine.” They reportedly received this information at an intelligence briefing in Brussels.

      “The name of the suspected private sponsor [of the attack]… has been circulating in intelligence circles for months but not revealed,” the report said.

      Without publishing any names, The Times identified the culprit as a Ukrainian not affiliated with the government in Kiev. It also alleged that the suspect “appears to have left a peculiar calling card,” without elaborating.

      The delegation was also reportedly told to deflect any questions about why investigation of the matter was proceeding at such a slow pace.

      The outlet suggested that NATO officials apparently wanted to “protect Ukraine from a public spat with Germany.” At the time of the incident, Berlin was reluctant to supply Kiev with Leopard 2 tanks without allied support. Germany changed its mind in January 2023, with several other Western nations joining in with proposed tank deliveries. –RT News

      1. Stephen

        They are positioning it as similar to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. And NATO is so responsible that they wanted to avoid Ukraine suffering the fate of Serbia in 1914.

        Obviously, they do not seem to have arrested the alleged Mr or Ms Big sponsor and their cronies either. Nor issued arrest warrants.

      2. jsn

        Your first bold line says what needs to be said.

        Who has deeper ties to Ukraine than Joe?

        There may be deeper cultural or linguistic ties amongst the Neocons, but dollar for dollar I doubt anyone’s more connected than the guy on Airforce One: money in, money out.

        1. digi_owl

          And that is why Joe and the neocons are bedfellows.

          They convinced him that there were money to be made if he backed their play of getting back at Russia for the communist era blood sins.

          Thus he is likely more and more resembling a walking talking sunk cost fallacy.

      3. Ignacio

        If they have names, why keeping them secretive? Why no pictures of the vessel? Or the truck? Moreover if these are supposedly rogue actors without ties to any government. Why so much secret? Usually the names of terrorists are published as fast as they are known. Why not in this case?.

      1. NN Cassandra

        Ah I see, it’s in the tweet with single link that somehow didn’t load for me or something.

        Still I think this story is the most interesting of them as it totally undercuts what (little) was said during the whole time – we are investigating, probably it was Russia, or maybe not, but must have been state actor, anyway we don’t know yet, etc. And now boom, the unnamed officials claim they had name of the guy right from the start?

  8. R.S.

    I’m told by German speakers that the summary in Politico is accurate.

    Stimmt. We are to believe that a team of six with a van of diving equipment rented a small yacht, loaded it with several tons of explosives and went out to sea. The investigation has even found “small traces” of the explosives on the yacht’s table, oh my. Then, two divers hastily hauled all those charges 80 m underwater (by hand, I guess), the yacht returned to the port, and the crew disappeared for good.

    The link to Ukraine is extremely tenuous. It’s just stated that the firm is owned by two Ukrainians, and they have connections to other Ukrainians (who would have thunk?) The usual allegations of a “Russian false flag operation” are thrown in to boot.

    Sounds like a bad James Bond spin-off or something.

      1. meddle

        Yep, the Politico quote accurately reflects the content of the German Zeit article. And the direct and indirect quotes are legit.

      2. R.S.

        If my comment was inappropriate, my bad. I just had a chat about the news with some guys in the morning, and some of them have relevant experience. And they were baffled by die Zeit’s nonsense. Jokes about “Petrov and Boshirov strike again!” aside, they said they were more ready to believe it was the Kraken or Cthulhu or whatever.

    1. The Rev Kev

      This is so stupid this idea and the fact that the New York Times prints it is not going to make anybody believe it. Those straights are some of the most heavily surveilled areas in the world and is as good as a NATO lake. If there was a yacht there with a bunch of divers spotted, the response would be a more updated version of what was seen in your James Bond reference-

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aNL3POV6OoI (4:33 mins)

      1. Cine Tee

        Alex Christoforou says it was done by two guys in red hats who yelled “This is MAGA country.”

      1. John Anthony La Pietra

        Wouldn’t someone have had to see a car flipping over and triggering the explosion? (Or maybe a submarine or a diving bell.) And an old guy chomping a cherished cheroot and declaiming, “I love it when a plan comes together. . . .”

  9. DJG, Reality Czar

    The Ukrainians have already denied involvement: “Kiev ha negato di essere coinvolta nell’operazione. “Non c’entriamo nulla con l’operazione di sabotaggio ai danni dei gasdotti; sarebbe un bel complimento per i nostri servizi speciali ma quando si concluderanno le indagini si vedrà che l’Ucraina non ha nulla a che fare con tutto ciò”, ha affermato Oleksii Reznikov, ministro della Difesa ucraino.” From today’s Fatto Quotidiano.

    My translation: “Kiev denies being involved in the operation. ‘We have nothing to do with this operation of sabotage damaging the gas pipeline. It would be quite the compliment to our special services, but when the investigations conclude, it will be shown that Ukraine has nothing to do with all of that,’ stated Oleksii Reznikov, Minister of Defense.”

    Odd details that may point to the reasons for this international coordination of non-admission of truth:
    –Insistence on the port of Rostock. So does this mean that the Germans are at fault? Is that why Joe Biden had to summon Scholz to Washington? To lay blame? The Germans somehow self-bombed themselves?
    –And just what was the purpose of the meeting in D.C. a few days back?
    –And why would anyone expect us to believe that two divers (with assistants) mined the pipelines? Unnoticed, natch. As if it were a couple of hours work by Lloyd Bridges in Sea Hunt.
    –In other reports, there is a detail that the explosives went into Germany by truck. Is that believable?
    –German defense minister Pistorius set out the idea that it could be a false-flag operation. Yeah, sure.

    Finally, Maria Zakharova, who truly does have a future in satire (or stand-up comedy) is quoted: “Non sarei sorpresa se, dopo una presunta inchiesta, gli occidentali e i loro giornali stabilissero che il Nord Stream è stato distrutto da un delfino-attentatore fuggito dalla Crimea in Ucraina”. Lo ha detto la portavoce del ministero degli Esteri russo, Maria Zakharova”

    “I wouldn’t be surprised if after some half-assed inquest, the West and Western media tell us that it was a dolphin fleeing from Crimea who did it.”

    1. begob

      “A flock of seagulls flew into the pipelines and shredded the compressor units. Gazprom is at fault for failing to erect scarecrows.”

    2. vao

      Insistence on the port of Rostock.

      A possible explanation: to give some credibility to the story, a boat, any boat that sailed on any suitable day wrt. the explosions and could be linked to Ukraine, no matter how tenuous the connection, had to be found. And the only one fulfilling the specs was some sailing boat in Rostock partly owned by an Ukrainian.

    3. KLG

      “As if it were a couple of hours work by Lloyd Bridges in Sea Hunt.”

      Exactly. I loved that show as a little boy; it looked great on a 14-inch black and white portable TV! Lloyd Bridges could have done it, with the assistance of sometime co-stars Beau and Jeff. Alas, Mr. Bridges died in 1998.

      The PTB really do think we are all as stupid as they are.

    4. Ignacio

      The dolphin hypothesis, I like that! It has the attractive of calling for nature revenge against humans. Very much like the killer whales attacking ships. Zakharova on fire she is.

      1. Edgar, not Edmund

        “The Day of the Dolphin” was a documentary!
        “‘Fa loves Pa!” ‘Fa hates pipelines.

    5. ambrit

      Isn’t there a beluga whale in some Danish harbour that is an “escapee” from a Russian human/seamammal ‘dirty tricks’ team? There was a video of the critter returning a lost human object.

  10. Polar Socialist

    I’m sure the investigative website Bellingcat will soon present proof that the divers were actually Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov.

    Who, by the way, were also captured by the McDonald’s CCTV in East Palestine 42 minutes before the derailment, the other carrying a crowbar and the other a pick-axe.

  11. Irrational

    It’s doing its job displacing other stories. Top of the page in Frankfurter Allgemeine today, which has been rabidly pro-war. Presented as an oh-so neutral Q&A with the last but one question being about Sy Hersh’s story and saying that his “reputation as an investigative journalist has suffered greatly in recent years”.
    Link for anyone interested: https://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/ausland/fragen-und-antworten-zur-explosion-von-nord-stream-18732646.html?printPagedArticle=true#pageIndex_2 – will probably disappear behind their paywall shortly.
    Whether it is also a change of narrative as the Duran guys and posters on MoA have speculated, we’ll see, but they certainly do think we are stupid.

          1. ambrit

            But Comrade! Ukrainian dolphin is special dolphin! Kiev is on Dnipro river. River go to Chernoye More. Then special dolphins hitch ride on American frigate, uh, grain freighter, to target site.

  12. SET

    Moon of Alabama had this awhile ago (September 28, 2022), from open sources. Handy maps of helicopter flights from the USS Kearsarge! Some of conclusions and details are different, but darned close to the Hersh story.

    Then there’s a photo of an underwater demining drone, parked under one of the pipelines, though likely not from this incident? I’d have to look for that, it’s searchable online.

    The helicopter flight paths, over the precise area of the explosions is curious, most curious. What say you Holmes old boy?


    1. Ignacio

      It (from the point of view of the people that redacted the story) MUST be a sail boat or any other small recreational boat because if not, anything with an engine and >100 GT must almost certainly navigate those waters with an Automatic Identification System given the traffic in those waters to avoid collisions and then, there would be proof of the location of said vessel. They need no proof of it to be found for this narrative to succeed.
      This said, any civilian vessel with a decent sonar equipment might easily locate the pipelines in those shallow waters.

      1. ChrisFromGA

        I’m not sure about this, but I thought the pipelines were buried under the sea floor to avoid anchors or other objects getting entangled with them.

        Not sure how commercial sonar equipment would help, unless it can “see” below the sea floor.

        1. Polar Socialist

          I believe they are just laid on the bottom as they are. Most of the bottom of the Baltic Sea is covered by a thick layer of silt, and the pipes do sunk in there.

          If I recall correctly, the explosion were on the places where the bottom is elevated and mostly gravel, so the pipes are at least half “visible” on the sea floor.

        2. wendigo

          There are articles available on the internet explaining the construction of the pipeline.

          Some parts are trenched, most are just laid on the bottom, some parts on prepared gravel beds to smooth out the sea bed.

          There is also mention of “mattresses” being placed where other pipelines are crossed.

    2. digi_owl

      I could have sworn that all pipelines and cables are marked on sea maps (charts) in order to avoid having ships hit them with an anchor or similar.

  13. pjay

    I’ve been following propaganda in the media for a long time. We’ve always had a manipulated media, but to me there was a definite qualitative change after the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act was quietly inserted into the 2013 NDAA. Almost immediately the stories about our various enemies started sounding more exaggerated and outlandish, as if “officials” were, well, just making s**t up and feeding them to their media assets, who then just published them as fact. If a story was later exposed as BS, no problem; it was just memory-holed.

    I’m convinced that this secretive legislation, and a few others, has been used to remove what little restriction was left on use of domestic propaganda. Today, it’s like they don’t really even have to pretend to make sense, or jump through a bunch of hoops to make their claims believable. Because they don’t.

    1. fresno dan

      Advocates of improving the U.S. government’s global communication capacity and thus its public diplomacy heaved a sigh of relief in January. The reason: When President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act, he also signed into law the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act, which contains a much needed overhaul of Smith-Mundt’s prohibition on domestic dissemination of the programming of U.S. international broadcasting for American audiences.
      Uh, wasn’t that guy, 44, a great constitutional scholar?

  14. Zephyrum

    Sadly, all of my Democrat friends are taking the NYT article very seriously. One or two are questioning the idea that a half-dozen operatives on a sailboat could launch such an operation, but most are entirely credulous. It seems that party loyalty trumps any critical thinking.

    1. digi_owl

      Likely because either way do not affect them, unless they plan to go vacationing in Europe at some point.

    1. diptherio

      Or maybe the footnote just got left out altogether. I can’t tell for sure, actually.

  15. David

    From the beginning of this story, I’ve been struck by the total contrast between the professional efficiency of the operation itself, and the shambolic amateurism of the conception and political handling, which seems to have been done by a bunch of children. I literally cannot imagine what the originators of this stupid idea were thinking and expecting, and how they believed that the truth could be covered up indefinitely, or at least long enough that it didn’t matter. This is Washington, after all, where everybody hates everybody else, and all dirty secrets come out eventually if only because somebody wants to leak them to discredit someone else. When I saw Hersh’s story, my first thought was that his source was one of those individuals, or from one of those agencies, which argued against the plan and tried to stop it, and is now getting its revenge.

    So this seems to be an attempt to throw a bone to the media, in a way that doesn’t implicate the US and NATO, and doesn’t directly implicate the government in Kiev. It’s a minimalist solution but the important thing is that it suggests that Washington has lost control of the narrative, and is in damage limitation mode. And that in turn suggests that Biden and co are going to be forced back, step by step, by more revelations in the near future. Once you’ve lost control of the narrative in a situation like this it’s very hard to get it back.

    1. Piotr Berman

      ” the total contrast between the professional efficiency of the operation itself, and the shambolic amateurism of the conception and political handling”

      If you handle explosives improperly, the consequences can be sad indeed. As far as media and political handling, it works, isn’t it? Back when Salisbury Novichock story was hot, I even observed a political benefit of sloppy official version. Some folks will ridicule it, nitpick, point to the fact that it would be much easier for authorities to do the deed than the alleged culprits etc. Statistics of such doubts and derisions are compiled and use to
      A. measure the level of penetration of social networks by Russian tools and the need for “doing something about it”
      B. identify pro-Russians for blacklisting or easy dismissals in the style “Conspiracy theorist who bizarrely questioned consensus understanding of North Stream explosions”
      So the public gets the story to believe and is relieved that authorities do their jobs chasing trolls etc.

      To summarize, mental efforts to make official or semi-official versions more plausible would be wasted and even counter-productive.

      1. David

        Remember that the NC commentariat is in the top 5% or even the top 1% of those who take an interest in what’s going on in Ukraine, not least because of the experience and knowledge that many have, and the judicious choice of links. And look, we have some experienced deep-sea divers in the commentariat, just as we seem to have experts on everything else. But in politics, what is believed is not what is technically true or even likely, but what fits into a standard narrative pattern that people will recognise and accept. It makes a dramatic counter-story for journalists and politicians, and that’s what it was intended to accomplish. In that sense, it’s quite clever, and its originators must be hoping that it’s enough to keep the media at bay. I’m not so sure: I see a whiff of desperation here. But that’s what you get for letting amateurs run the show.

        1. Stephen

          You are perfectly describing how propaganda seems to work. Per Hannah Arendt’s formulation, the point is that it creates a consistent overall narrative that is internalised so it will not be questioned but which is totally disconnected from reality.

          The NYT story is therefore 100% consistent with the mainstream narrative of brave, patriotic Ukrainians taking risks to defend their country. What could be more consistent with that than a group of plucky, cockle shell heroes going out in a small boat. They are even a woke mixed gender diverse group too.

          My instinct is that enough people might believe it (or not question it) so that it accomplishes its objectives. The pro Ukraine fanatics will want to pin medals on the “perpetrators” and the mass of people “in the middle” will go with the flow. As you imply, the more sceptical and informed NC commentariat is not the audience.

          Nor are the governments and military staffs of Global South countries who will understand the reality too. Except to the extent that this might underline to them just how in control of the western media messaging the US government really is.

          The big question for me is how this goes down in Germany and how the political game will play out there. That’s where this sabotage had an obvious real negative impact and where the Seymour Hersh story looked like it was getting traction.

          Amazing too just how much expertise flows through in these comments. The various comments above by former navy and other experienced divers are just awesome.

    2. Ignacio

      A bunch of children. Indeed. Think about it. And they don’t have better opinion about us. They really think they can treat all of us as if we were children that can be given a candy and problem solved. In many cases that is true as most people don’t pay any attention and eat the news like candies.

    3. ChrisPacific

      It should get particularly interesting if Hersh has sources with knowledge of the damage control attempts, and is able to report on those. He does produce that kind of material sometimes (it was a large part of his OBL story).

  16. Dr Spook

    “Pinning blame on mystery operatives with superpowers turns scrutiny as far as possible from government actors, and the big point is to exculpate the US, particularly its top brass. ”

    No–it could theoretically do so if it were plausible, but this is so laughably farfetched that it just further erodes whatever little credibility the NY Times and Intelligence apparatus have left.

    If I were running the Western Intelligence services, I would be $hh!tting bricks that this is the best story I could come up with despite a minimum of six months to prepare one.

    They should have just claimed that aliens with teleporters and tractor beams did it. Or maybe they are saving this one for the next idiocy.

    From a slightly different perspective, though, someone in the West is clearly very nervous about the attention this is getting and doing stupid things out of panic.

  17. paddy

    the damaged pipe is in 80 to 130 meters depth.

    that deep requires short exposures if even possible for a diver to operate there. very likely a complex submersible(s) used!! who do we know has those??


    implausible deniability!

  18. Gregorio

    All they need is a giant clam and a cut air hose, and this would read like a script from “Sea Hunt.”

  19. Michael Fiorillo

    I wrote a very pointed comment in response to the Times article, calling them a propaganda vehicle, and to my surprise they printed it. Also, given that the paper is #McResistance Central, I was pleasantly, surprised to see more skepticism in the comments than usual, fwiw.

    1. Michael Fiorillo

      Foolish, naive Michael !!

      That Times comment has since been deleted; thin-skinned, those PMC types, aren’t they?

    2. ChrisPacific

      I just looked at the top comments on NYT. Wow. I don’t recall ever seeing quite that level of unanimity. Much hilarity over the identity of the ‘pro Ukraine group’ in question (hint: it’s not a few amateurs with a charter yacht).

  20. jefemt

    Did Building Seven have apartments? Was that Putin or the Bush family?

    Gotta keep the MT tin hat rep intact…

    Not that the article content regards it, but one could argue the US destruction of Nordstream WAS pro-Uke, or at least anti-Russian?

  21. Jose Oliveira

    Biden said it more than once. They will shut down the pipeline anyhow. Don’t the americans believe their president anymore?
    The ukranians? Do they even have the technical capabilities to do so? Nor even Boris Johnson believes it, let alone all the rest.
    Brazilians have a saying that goes almost like this: soft talk for putting a bull to sleep.

  22. Bosko

    I don’t think that obvious propaganda like this is going to break through to the propagandized population by virtue of how flimsy it is, or whatever. But it doesn’t help. If anything changes how Americans, Europeans, etc., think about this war, it’s going to be domestic political pressure: an increasingly abjected population that is getting tired of the myth, and starts voting against it.

  23. Piotr Berman

    What is a priori suspicious is the form of release, namely officials speaking on the condition of anonymity. A while earlier, Germans stopped their investigation invoking national interest, derided by the “least responsible” members of Bundestag, so at the very least, investigation if any was a state secret. That would heavily reduce the number of people knowing about the findings. Unauthorized release of investigation information is, I guess, prosecutable and culprits easy to trace. From that, one can deduce that unofficial release was officially approved.

    BTW, German and American versions can be reconciled by having double agents in the investigation or a mixed team.

    That begs the question: what are the benefits of surreptitious official release? I see only one, it removes the need to answer follow-up questions, like the basic one: how large the “yacht” was? And other questions, how was it paid for, when it was rented, how in this biometric age one can fool people with forged passports, what is known about the explosions — estimates of amounts and type of explosives, anything known about the triggering devices. The released story lacks such details, but offers one finding: the divers were deemed to be highly trained, BUT NOT by a government entity. What clues would allow that “BUT NOT”?

    Then there is Petrov and Bashirov problem: authorities after months and months discover something that should be possible to find quickly.

  24. Bazz Radish

    Recap: the war isn’t a war, it’s a special military operation. Economic warfare isn’t warfare, it’s non-state actors participating in sanctions, kinetically. If the Kremlin is gonna get bent out of shape over this, then perhaps the Kremlin hot-heads hadn’t quite thought out the consequences of destroying the homes of stern ex-soviets familiar with Moscow’s levers of energy persuasion.

    Putin, his inner circle, were to a man recruited into Andropov’s KGB, so they shouldn’t be shocked when their opponents, from the shadows, do exactly what they would do. The scandal is that Russia couldn’t drop pictures of the culprits as the UK did in the Skripal assassination attempt. The FSB probably have their hands full at the moment.

    Speculative note: based on images of the destroyed pipeline swiftly gathered by undersea drones, no reason why the boom-boom wouldn’t be positioned using the same devices. Drones are Ukraine’s modus operandi.

  25. TimmyB

    As a recreational scuba diver, I also cannot believe two divers placed 1000 kgs of explosives on three separate locations at depths greater than 60m from a sail boat. That’s close to impossible breathing compressed air.

    Does anyone else find it odd that one of the persons on the boat is described as a female doctor, yet her identity is unknown?

    Seriously, if her identity is unknown, how does the US government know she’s a doctor? That can’t be.

    Also, we know there are a total of four pipelines. Only three were successfully destroyed. Did the perpetrators not bother to mine the 4th pipeline or were explosives placed there which failed to explode? If explosives were placed there, tracing them would be fruitful.

    Finally, this happened in Swedish waters. The Swedish government investigated the crime scene. It has refused to release the results of its investigation, claiming national security. Obviously, a public examination of the physical evidence collected at the crime scene would be illuminating. We shouldn’t believe the US or Germany until we hear from the Swedes.

    1. TimH

      one of the persons on the boat is described as a female doctor

      Dr Victoria Nuland, aka Tricky Vikki

      1. begob

        More likely it was the head nurse of the British army: “I happened to be sailing past when I noticed some disturbance in the water. Hullo, I said to myself, I don’t expect this will turn into an international incident but perhaps I may be of assistance.”

    2. redleg

      I’ve managed underwater blasting projects before. At that depth/pressure most explosives require a booster charge to get the main charge to burst properly, if at all. A regular blasting cap isn’t strong enough.
      Speculating, what if they forgot to include the booster at one of the sites? I can see the perps, Navy or not, getting to site 4 and noticing an extra set of booster charges in the magazine…

    3. Format

      one of the persons on the boat is described as a female doctor, yet her identity is unknown?

      Don’t forget about the captain. You need to be licensed to be a captain, so the name should be in some registry.

  26. wendigo

    My guess is we will see a few more iterations of the story until it becomes an intervention.

    Germany will soon be explaining all the good that has occurred from a greater emphasis on green energy to stopping the reliance on evil Russia.

    They will eventually be officially thankful for ending the pipelines.

    At that point someone will take credit for the intervention.

    Maybe part of their re-election campaign.

  27. Karl

    The German and New York Times stories came out so close to each other… that they were clearly coordinated.

    It would appear that the NY Times and Washington post stories came out within 2 or 3 hours of eachother at the most.

    The WAPO time stamped its article as “March 7 6:32 pm EST”. The NY Times doesn’t time stamp to the minute, but it does say it made the March 8 print edition. This had to have been submitted by the March 7 9pm EST deadline for the print edition, or around 2 hours of the WAPO article.

    I mean, surely the deep state can’t let one of its organs “scoop” the other, can it?

    The LA Times must not be one of its organs. If you search “Nordstream” on its website, its last mention of the pipeline was in 2019!

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      The Washington Post story was a re-report of the NYT account. Those always appear pronto.

      And this was after NATO and the Swedes reacted:

      Speaking alongside Stoltenberg, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson cited an ongoing investigation when he declined to comment on an article in the New York Times, which first reported the recent intelligence suggesting a pro-Ukraine group had carried out the attack.


      So they were not part of the original reporting. They mined government statements responding to the NYT story and got off the record quotes reacting to the story from (based on careful parsing) potentially as few as one official, but I would hazard 2 or 3

  28. nippersdad

    So I have this vision in my head of Victoria Nuland, lying in a bikini on her yacht in the Baltic and occasionally flipping out her credentials for all of the Balt-Ops people wondering about her presence there. Below decks, Anthony Blinken is stuffing dynamite into weighted bags to drop over the side to Chrystia Freeland and Von der Leyen, who are using their little plastic shovels and pails to dig out the pipeline eighty meters down.

    It was just a girls night out doing what they love to do. Who could possibly have a problem with that? I can easily see why Judith Miller would want to ghost write a story about something like that in the NYT.

    After all, the girls just want to have fun, right?


  29. ChrisPacific

    I am actually in possession of secret evidence (anonymous, naturally) on some of the suppressed findings of the investigations. I am reliably informed that among the evidence found at the site was lots of little Ukrainian flags and a number of signed pictures of Zelensky. There was also a hand-painted sign saying “Ukrainian proxy force was here!” along with an affidavit confirming the group had no links with Zelensky, the Ukrainian government, or NATO.

    I am not in a position to release any of this evidence, of course, for matters of national security. Nonetheless, I think you’ll agree it’s quite conclusive.

  30. Donald

    I made a post earlier which didn’t appear–possibly it was misinterpreted as snark, so I will post it in a straightforward way, with no trace of snark. Or it might just be a technical glitch. Anyway, here is the longer snark-free version.

    It bothers me how people use the term “conspiracy theory” to dismiss theories which actually make sense, and then turn around and propose a conspiracy theory. To be more specific, two people I know in real life have told me in different contexts that they don’t believe in conspiracy theories because people in DC can’t keep secrets. But that is rarely the issue. In most cases when someone proposes a CT they claim that someone did let the truth out.

    So here we have two theories–one is that the US did it and mostly kept it semi-secret until Hersh got at least one person to talk. Or alternatively several private people did it and governments knew the truth immediately and then kept it secret for over a year.

    So either governments can keep secrets or they can’t. I don’t think one should be dogmatic about it. But in this case, it is the mainstream which is claiming a truly outlandish James Bond style private terrorist attack was kept secret by governments for a year, while idiots in public blamed the least likely suspect, which is Russia.

  31. PCM

    Sure, pro-Ukrainians did it: the United States. The only way you can get away with causing Western-European energy costs to skyrocket and f*cking their industrial capacity, competitiveness, and standard of living for years to come is if Western-European leadership is your b!tch. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Western-European leadership is not Ukraine’s, Poland’s, or any given Baltic Republic’s b!tch. Western-European leadership is a one-country b!tch, and that country is the United States. Cui bono? And cui malo but goes along like a submissive b!tch?

    1. James

      I have also been thinking that Academi is a “pro-Ukrainian group”, they are technically not the US military, and they have the expertise and the equipment.

  32. PCM

    How Stupid Do They Think We Are?

    I think the real question is, “How stupid do EU- and NATO-member countries’ leaders think their own citizens are?”

    The Western-European press is now as billionaire/Deep-State-controlled, consolidated, conglomeratized, homogenized, and monolithic as in Australia, Britain, and the US. The takeover in Western Europe, however, wasn’t fully completed until after the Crash of 2007, and there are still a couple generations of Western Europeans who grew up with a diverse, competitive press, a broad Overton Window, and inquiring, skeptical minds. Europeans already know how outsize a price they are paying for sanctions on Russia and will continue to pay for the Nord Stream bombings. When they figure out that their EU, NATO, and national leaders sold them out to make a small number of Western European and (especially) North American plutocrats even more obscenely wealthy, I think we are going to begin seeing mass rebellions, populist takeovers of national governments, and withdrawals from the EU and NATO. (And with that, Russia will get what it’s justifiably wanted all along: mutually beneficial relations with its European neighbors instead of escalating threats from a unified proxy for a warmongering imperial power.)

    Europeans haven’t been as thoroughly indoctrinated as Americans, nor for nearly as long, and the pain they’re suffering from the US proxy war on Russia is an order of magnitude higher. If European leaders are counting on the mainstream media to successfully sell the Big Lie of defending brave, democratic Ukraine against imperialist Russia aggression, they are taking a huge risk. If I were them, I would already be arranging for asylum in the US or Canada, along with a cushy golden-parachute payoff for treasonous services rendered.

  33. Heraclitus

    While it makes no sense that the Russians would blow up their own pipeline, they do have the skills to do so.. An incident occurred in the Svalbard Islands, between Norway and Greenland, in January of ’22, that has been reasonably attributed to Russia. This is from an interview with Pippa Malmgren on Macrovoices in the spring of that year. There is also a more recent interview with her on Macrovoices:

    ‘And so as another example of the warfare that we’re seeing. A few months ago, there was a very very interesting and important incident in a tiny little island in the north of Norway called Svalbard, where we find the world’s fastest internet cable and it’s a double cable. And what is it doing on this tiny little island in the middle of nowhere? Well it turns out that SvalSat, the satellite company in Svalbard uses this cable to basically connect pretty much most of the commercial and even military satellites to the earth including the International Space Station. So if you cut that cable, in theory you cut off all of those satellites. Now, that cable was cut, it’s now been determined by the Norwegian police that it was definitely not an accident from nature. It was deliberate. And it looks like it was the cable was cut in two different places four kilometers apart. And the link between that four kilometers has gone totally missing. And they’ve now ransacked one of the oligarchs boats. Actually, I shouldn’t call it a boat. It’s like this massive vessel that looks like a military vessel. But it’s a yacht. And so basically, the allegation is the Russians cut the cable and the head of the defense forces in the United Kingdom came straight out and said this is an act of war because it is about turning off all of our satellites. And that to put it in like basic perspective, because people don’t get what does this mean? That’s like no more Uber Eats, right? That’s no more GPS. That’s a denial of service attack. That’s not about you can’t access a website on your computer, it’s that you can’t access the net. This is a whole different level of strategic threat.’


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