Seymour Hersh is a Pulitzer-winning journalist whose career has legitimately served the public interest many times over the last few decades. As the second video below mentions, if you’ve heard of the Mỹ Lai massacre, at least in the U.S., it’s because of his reporting. In more recent years, he’s developed a reputation for what’s been described as an over-reliance on anonymous sources, often to support controversial claims, that smacks of gullibility. Despite that, his history demands at least some respect, and when it comes to who blew up the Nord Stream gas pipelines, I’m sympathetic to the idea that the U.S. is the most likely culprit. The thing is, contrary to what some seem to believe, the U.S. is not the only entity in the world with agency. Other countries act on their own, for their own reasons all the time. I feel the need to say this because there are people across the political spectrum in the U.S. who seem to believe that it literally controls the entire world. Life is more complicated than that, which I think is a good thing.
I am not, however, anything like an expert on this sort of thing, so I found these videos helpful. The first one digs into who has the motive and capability to do something like this. It makes the case that basically everyone except Germany has motive, and pretty much everyone probably has the capability.
Hersh has written an article on his Substack that claims the United States blew up the pipeline. He outlines a plausible order of events, and bases it all on information from a single anonymous source, claimed to be involved in planning the operation. Again, I have no trouble believing that the U.S. would do this, but as Beau says in the video above, that applies to a lot of entities, not even limited to national governments. Hersh’s claim certainly has plausibility, but it’s only credibility lies in Hersh’s reputation – in how willing the reader is to take him at his word. This is by no means unique to Hersh, but it does mean that we haven’t actually been shown evidence. If I were to put out a blog post tomorrow saying that France did it, or Exxon did it, and cited an anonymous source, I think it would be perfectly reasonable for nobody to believe me. Hell, if I was contacted by someone claiming to be involved in the operation, I would immediately assume they were someone messing with me. If nothing else, choosing to leak that information to a random blogger with a couple hundred daily views (please share my work, but like – the good posts) would be profoundly irresponsible.
But my point – and it’s one I got from Beau in the video below – is that in terms of evidence, the article and its author are all we currently have. That doesn’t mean Hersh is wrong, but it does mean that some skepticism is probably warranted.
Lassi Hippeläinen says
I still think that Russia is the culprit. They had the best change to install the explosives. The pipe is Russian, it was laid in the sea from a Russian ship operated by a Russian crew. In the current paranoid mindset dominating in the Kremlin, being able to destroy the pipe is a natural thouht. It only needed someone to press a button. No ships, no submarines, no divers on the scene.
As you say, Hirsh’s reliance on completely anonymous sources with little else makes it hard to verify anything. I really started wondering when he claimed that the whole bin Laden killing was a story made up by the Obama administration, and that bin Laden had been kept as a prisoner there by the Pakistani government since 2006. Here’s a story: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/apr/18/the-killing-of-osama-bin-laden-review-seymour-m-hersh-abbottabad-syria-sarin-al-nusra-government
It’s hard to know what to believe.
Abe Drayton says
I’m certainly open to that possibility as well – there are plenty of reasons why Russia would benefit, and given that the pipelines were closed off at the time, it wasn’t hard for anyone to calculate how much gas would be lost.
Abe Drayton says
Yeah. I’m frequently frustrated by the way governments, corporations, and other entities fling around so much propaganda that it’s hard to be sure of anything. Some of it’s not hard to see through, but when it coems to countries I know nothing about, it’s very difficult to figure out what’s real.
I don’t see how Russia would benefit. The Nord Stream pipelines were a big investment for them, and were both economically and politically very beneficial to Russian interests.
I’m not 100% convinced by Hersch on this, but it does strike me as the most likely explanation.
Abe Drayton says
It would let Russia re-negotiate a better price, with Germany being desperate. Less so if it was proven that Russia did it, maybe, but as it stands, Germany still needs gas, and they’ll pay to get it.
How does blowing up the physical infrastructure necessary to deliver the product allow Russia to negotiate a better price? They can’t restart those exports at any price without at least completing some very expensive repairs, if not completely rebuilding both pipelines. Gas pipelines don’t particularly like being filled with salt water, and the intact sections are now probably solidly plugged with methane clathrates. Bringing them back into service is a huge job, if it’s even possible at all.
Abe Drayton says
Like I said, I still see the US as the most likely culprit.
Don’t think of Russia as a single unified whole. Instead thing about how it might benefit one faction at the cost of another faction. For example, the obvious answer — which is also cartoonishly evil — is that Putin did it in order to burn any bridges going backwards to ensure that others in power in Russia got more motivated to win the war. Is that what happened? I don’t know. It’s at least a little plausible.