Scroll to the top

Did Ukraine blow up the Nord Stream pipelines?

Did Ukraine blow up the Nord Stream pipelines?
Did Ukraine blow up Nord Stream pipelines? | Quick Take | GZERO Media

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Hi everyone. And have you seen the latest news on Nord Stream 1, 2? It has been months since that pipeline, those pipelines were destroyed, were sabotaged, and we haven't had any information on who's behind it. Been big questions. Why would the Russians blow up their own pipelines? I've been skeptical, and the investigations that the Europeans have been engaged in, no evidence whatsoever. There was this piece by Seymour Hersh that I looked into pretty closely, one anonymous source claiming the Americans and the Norwegians were behind it. That turned out to be not standing up on its facts on a whole bunch of pieces of ostensible evidence brought in the piece. But now we have a New York Times piece that's come out with direct sourcing from US senior officials, including intelligence officials, claim that there is evidence that a Ukrainian organization was behind the explosion.

Now, I want to say, first of all, that was my view over the last few months, is if anyone was likely behind it would probably be Ukraine. And the question is, would they have the capacity? Because the interest was certainly highest. They are the ones that desperately want to ensure that the Russians don't continue to have leverage to potentially drive a wedge around European support and get that gas flowing again from Russia into Germany and into Europe.

Now, they're big questions given the level of sophistication that would be required in pulling off an attack like that, and also doing it without any fingerprints at all in terms of the investigations and the intelligence, would the Ukrainians be able to pull it off? So they're very interested, but could they actually do it? And the view was, well, maybe not. And I would've said no, except for some of the other attacks that we've seen the Ukrainians pull off, like blowing up the Kerch Bridge from Russia to Crimea, which I was quite surprised to see them be able to do. As well as the assassination attempt that almost happened against Aleksandr Dugin, instead killing his daughter, and only because she decided the last minute to take the car that he was meant to be in, and that was just outside Moscow.

So the Ukrainians have shown more capacity than a lot of people have believed, but still lots and lots of questions here that are going to need to be investigated. One is this Ukrainian organization, this outfit, an extremist group, do we believe that they were operating by themselves or did they have direct support/complicity of the Ukrainian government? It's hard to imagine that such an attack would've happened and the Ukrainian government had no idea. And I say that in part because of funding and in part because of the impact that it would have, and so you're potentially doing a lot of damage to Ukraine's position vis-a-vis the Europeans, even the Americans, if you get away with it. Why would you take that kind of a risk as an organization ostensibly supporting Ukraine unless the government was behind it? Also, would you have that kind of capacity without direct governmental support?

So one would expect that if it's an Ukrainian organization, the Ukrainian government probably at some level knows about it, probably at a high level knows about it. Let's keep in mind that despite all of the support from the United States, and it's been incredible, the military support, the economic support, Biden's trip directly to Kyiv, that there's not a lot of trust between the United States and Ukraine at the highest levels. There's a lot of alignment. There's a lot of belief that the Ukrainians need to be able to defend their territory and beat back the Russians. There's a lot of respect with Zelensky's courage and his ability to lead his people over the last year of war. I mean, really facing death himself on a daily basis on the ground in Kyiv. He's enemy number one for Putin and the Kremlin. No one wants to be in that position, and yet Zelensky has been. But that's not trust.

And when you talk to senior level American officials and European officials as well, NATO officials, it's not as if they believe that the Ukrainians are telling them everything they're doing. And further, that if the Americans or Europeans were to press the Ukrainians, for example, on when negotiations might need to start, what they should be about, there's a view that you couldn't keep that private, that would be leaked by the Ukrainian government to harder line allies like Poland, like the Baltic States and to the press very quickly. So there is a challenge here that if this was credibly the Ukrainian government behind it, it is going to worsen the view in the United States and among allies that when push comes to shove. Zelensky as much as you want him to win, is not someone that you can completely count on, rely on with sensitive information or in the war's next phase. In other words, as you move towards at some point actual diplomacy. That's a problem.

I would also say there's a problem because the Europeans have made it very clear that whoever is behind this Nord Stream explosion, remember Russian pipelines, but critical infrastructure that was necessary for the Europeans, and in international waters, they said whoever's responsible for it, they must be held accountable at the highest levels. And I've heard that from Ursula von der Leyen. I had that conversation directly with the Estonian Prime Minister a couple of weeks ago. She made that very clear. The Germans have made that very clear. Okay, well, at the beginning, I think there was a presumption on the part of many of them that, well, we're really talking about the Russians.

But of course we're probably not talking about the Russians. So what does it mean if the Ukrainian government is responsible at the highest levels? If we find that out, how are they going to be held accountable for blowing up these pipelines? And that's a very serious concern for the credibility of a coalition to hold together, as well as for strong, continued support of Ukraine by the West, which is utterly essential if Putin is going to stay on the back foot on the ground in Ukraine in terms of the ability to not make his war aims successful.

So I think this is important news. We're going to follow this story going forward. I'm glad that we're getting information finally, even if only a little bit from these investigations, but there are still a lot of questions to be answered. So that's the latest. Talk to you soon.


Subscribe to GZERO's daily newsletter