The New York Times reported Tuesday that US officials are claiming the Nord Stream bombings were carried out by a “pro-Ukrainian group” and dismissed reporting from investigative journalist Seymour Hersh that said President Biden ordered the sabotage.
The US officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to the Times said they based their assessment on new intelligence but offered very little detail about their claims. The report said the 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.”
The officials said there was no evidence tying Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky or any of his top advisors to the pipeline bombings. They also said they didn’t know much about the unnamed group, suggesting only that they were opponents of Russian President Vladimir Putin and likely Ukrainian or Russian nationals.
The Times briefly mentioned Hersh’s report only to say that US officials deny there was a US role. The Times report reads: “US officials say Mr. Biden and his top aides did not authorize a mission to destroy the Nord Stream pipelines, and they say there was no US involvement.”
Hersh’s report said that US Navy divers planted explosives on the Nord Stream pipelines in June 2022 under cover of NATO exercises in the Baltic Sea. It said the operation was carried out with the cooperation of Norway, and a Norwegian spy plane detonated the explosives by dropping a sonar buoy in late September 2022.
US officials told the Times that it appeared the explosives were probably planted on the pipelines by “experienced divers” but claimed they did “not appear to be working for military or intelligence services,” although they added that it was possible the “perpetrators received specialized government training in the past.”
The Times said that some of the US officials acknowledged that Ukraine and its allies had the most logical motive for bombing the pipelines. The US has long opposed the construction of Nord Stream 2, and President Biden threatened to “bring an end” to the pipeline if Russia invaded Ukraine.
After the sabotage, US officials celebrated the attacks, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who called it a “tremendous opportunity” to wean Europe off Russian gas.
The vague allegations made by US officials to the Times could be an effort to divert suspicion from the US to Ukraine. If confirmed that the US was behind the attack, it would clearly be considered an act of war against Russia.
The German newspaper Die Zeit also published a report on the pipeline sabotage on Tuesday that claimed German investigators believe it was carried out by six people using a yacht rented in Poland that was owned by two Ukrainians.
The two reports came after Biden hosted German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Washington, a visit that did not include the customary joint press briefing following their meeting. The last time Scholz was in Washington was on February 7, 2022, and it was then during a joint press briefing that Biden threatened to “bring an end” to the pipeline.