After months of investigations into the sabotage of the Nord Stream natural gas pipelines that connect Russia to Germany, no evidence has been found linking Russia to the attack, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday, citing interviews with 23 diplomats and intelligence officials from nine different countries.
“There is no evidence at this point that Russia was behind the sabotage,” one European official said. Some Western officials were quick to blame Russia for the September attacks, but the report said some officials now say Russia is not to blame.
Russia has little motive to attack the Nord Stream pipelines, which are mainly owned by the Russian state gas company Gazprom. Nord Stream 2 never delivered gas to Germany, and Nord Stream 1 stopped making shipments a few weeks before the blasts. But Russia would have an interest in keeping the pipelines intact to maintain some leverage over Europe as it faces an energy crisis.
The Post report recognized that Russia had little motive for the sabotage. “The rationale that it was Russia [that attacked the pipelines] never made sense to me,” one European official said. A handful of officials said they regretted how quickly many in the West were to put the blame on Moscow.
Investigators believe the perpetrators were state actors, and a German official said it appears explosives were placed on the outside of the pipelines. One state actor that had a motive for the attacks is the US, as Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the explosions a “tremendous opportunity” to wean Europe off Russian gas.
The US had long tried to stop the construction of Nord Stream 2 through sanctions, and President Biden said back in January that the US would “bring an end” to the pipeline if Russia invaded. Radek Sikorski, a former Polish foreign minister and current Member of European Parliament, suggested Washington was responsible by thanking the US on Twitter for the incident shortly after the leaks were reported.
But at this point, there’s still no evidence that the US or its allies were behind the blasts, and its unlikely conclusive proof of who was responsible will be made public anytime soon. “Forensics on an investigation like this are going to be exceedingly difficult,” a senior US State Department official told the Post.
For their part, Russia has blamed the blasts on the UK, an allegation that London denies. “Our intelligence services have data indicating that British military specialists were directing and coordinating the attack,’ Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in November.
The explosions and leaks took place in the Baltic Sea in the exclusive economic zones of Sweden and Denmark, which are both investigating the incidents. Given the relatively shallow depth of the blasts, the report said potential perpetrators aren’t limited only to countries that possess manned submarines or deep-sea demolition capabilities.