Sabotage, reasons of state, and the ordinary citizen

Nordstream 1 and 2 were rendered unusable for years on two consecutive days with the help of powerful explosive devices. According to a usually well-informed expert from CCTV-4 (the Chinese state television), the force released on this occasion was equivalent to at least two tons of TNT. The explosion was so powerful that it caused seismographs in Denmark and Sweden to tremble.

It appears that at least three countries have a direct interest in a permanent and, if possible, final interruption of the gas transports via both pipelines, even though the gas supply via Nordstream 1 had meanwhile already been reduced to zero. But the German business community was just putting massive pressure on politicians to put Nordstream 2 into operation after all, otherwise the outsourcing of large German corporations to the US and progressive overall deindustrialization would be inevitable. Voices from the SPD have also been heard along these lines. They were thinking not only of industry but also of ordinary citizens.

Who are the states that have a direct interest in cutting the direct energy route between Germany and Russia? First and foremost, of course, Ukraine, as the huge revenues Russia earns from gas deliveries keep Putin’s war machine running, costing hundreds of lives every day. In addition, the direct route omits the previously used transit through Ukraine, which significantly reduces one of the country’s most important sources of revenue. For the same reason Poland too strongly objected to the construction of both pipelines. Warsaw has an existential interest in bringing Ukraine into the Western camp – the threat from Russia being thereby shifted several hundred kilometers to the east. Both countries, Ukraine and Poland, cannot but welcome the destruction of the two Nordstream pipelines.

But were they in any way capable of taking an active role? The area of the Baltic Sea around the island of Bornholm is one of the regions best monitored by NATO. No Russian submarine has any chance of getting into this area unnoticed. Ukraine does not have access to the Baltic Sea; Poland does, but it would irreparably damage its reputation in the EU and its relationship with Germany if this act of sabotage could be proven against it.

That leaves one more suspect, a close and indispensable European ally, the United States of America. They are not only interested in stopping gas supplies via Nord Stream, but also in ending all Russian gas supplies to Germany and the European Union. This interest can be justified in several ways. On the one hand, they find it increasingly hard to accept that they are spending billions of dollars to support Ukraine, while the EU, conversely, is supporting the Russian war machine with even more billions of dollars. Gas supplies through Nordstream 1 had already ended on the Russian side, but their resumption through Nordstream 2 was offered by Putin in July. „We still have a ready route – that’s Nord Stream 2.“ As already mentioned, this offer coincides with a corresponding and growing demand from German industry, politicians, and ordinary citizens. It could therefore by no means be ruled out that there would again be a direct gas supply from Russia – now using Nord Stream 2 instead of 1. Of course, in addition to the strategic interest for the U.S., there is a further economic one. If Germany can no longer supply itself with (once) cheap Russian gas, it will have to rely to a large extent on American supplies of liquefied gas.

As is well known, the Nordstream pipelines were already a thorn in Donald Trump’s side. He had put Angela Merkel under considerable pressure to do without them. Nor did Joe Biden agree. Shortly before the war began, he said at a joint press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in the White House: „If Russia invades Ukraine, then there will no longer be a Nord Stream 2. We will bring an end to it.“ When a reporter asked how that was possible, given that the project was under German control, Biden is said to have added. „I promise you, we’ll be able to do it.“ This announcement, unmistakable in its outspokenness, probably just „happened“ to the sometimes carelessly honest President Joe Biden. It was certainly not coordinated with other government agencies; apparently Biden was not aware that the CIA, in order to dismiss any possible charges against the U.S. from the outset, had warned the Federal Republic of a possible attack.

The U.S. is the only power that can carry out such an attack not only technically at any time, but also in such a way that its implementers remain undetected. Within the framework of NATO, the Americans are constantly conducting reconnaissance flights in the Bornholm area. Yesterday, on Chinese state television, in the program „Jinri guanzhu“, direct reference was made to certain flights with the designation „FFAB123“. The Chinese seem to think that the destruction of the two pipelines by the Americans is an assured fact. The former Polish foreign minister and current EU parliamentarian Radek Sikorski obviously agrees. In a twitter note („Thank you, USA“) he expressed his gratitude. Of course, this is no more than a personal conviction, but it confirms the assumption that the sabotage is at least as convenient to the US as it is to Ukraine and Poland 

As for Russia, the Putin regime does not shy away from the wildest lies, but in this exceptional case the Russians seem to be above suspicion. Destruction of their own capital seems as unlikely as a cut into their own flesh. Nor would it be compatible with Putin’s and German industrialists‘ willingness to resume gas deliveries through Nordstream 2. After all, it is a sad but indisputable fact that the European Union provides Vladimir Putin with the money he needs to continue his murder in Ukraine. If one considers it possible that Putin allowed this sabotage to be carried out, though it radically contradicts his own interests, then we might as well believe that it was commanded by the German chancellor.

Now, as a German, I feel at the first moment outraged that Europe’s closest ally should even be considered as a possible perpetrator, and that no less a person than the American president could even consider this possibility. If, however, I were an American, I would certainly think differently. The American national economy is pumping billions of dollars into Europe to prevent Russia from „denazifying“ first Ukraine and then other parts of Europe, with the intention of gradually reversing the collapse of the Soviet Union – in Putin’s words, „the greatest catastrophe of the twentieth century.“ By contrast, Germany, as already noted, is pumping even more money into Russia in the opposite direction, thus actively promoting Putin’s very project.

To a certain extent, it is undoubtedly true what Russian citizens are told every day by state propaganda. The Germans and all other Europeans have become vassals of the United States. If it is true that the U.S. is indeed responsible for the sabotage of the Baltic Sea pipelines, then this view would become even more obvious. My indignation nevertheless remains moderate – just as the outrage over the spying on the German Chancellor via her cell phone did not leave a lasting imprint on the German public. As a region dependent on foreign energy supplies, Europe is too weak politically, economically and militarily to assert its independence against the two nuclear superpowers Russia (with its ally China) and the US. Since we are dependent on external energy supplies, we have no choice but to join one of the two camps.

And here my choice is quite definite. The defense of Europe against Russian totalitarianism during the Cold War had already made the old continent dependent on its big American brother – we were vassals from the Russian perspective – but Germany flourished under this vassalage, while in the Russian-occupied eastern states vassalage verged on slavery while poverty fed the readiness to revolt. This explains why none of the former Eastern bloc states would want to exchange their membership in the European Union for the former or a future Russian yoke – certainly not after Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. We know how the new tsar treats his own – closely related – brothers; as an avid listener, I know from personal experience how fantasies of destruction are aroused in the Russian media day after day (even in a once intellectually sophisticated program like „Bolshaya Igra“ – The Great Game). Of course, it would be a crime on our part to equate the Russians and their past with the current criminal regime. But the Putin system currently poses the greatest threat to Europe – and Europe alone is simply incapable of warding off that danger. Viewed in this light, it would not be surprising that the U.S. would exact a price for preventing Putin’s further advance in the interest of reasons of state.