It almost seems worthy of the opening scene in a Bond film. Vital Russian gas pipelines running beneath the Baltic Sea close to Denmark and Sweden are the victims of sabotage. The two countries have warned of leaks from both Nord Stream 1 and 2 after seismologists suggested there had been underwater explosions. No one wants to claim credit for the deed — yet. Who is the Blofeld behind this dastardly scheme?
Former Polish foreign minister Radek Sikorski, no fan of Russia he, sardonically declared on Twitter, “Thank you, USA.” That set the conspiracy theorists off. As has a video resurfacing of Joe Biden in February promising America would put an end to Nord Stream 2.
A more conventional appraisal comes from Melinda Haring, the deputy director of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center and a longstanding Russia hawk whose warnings over the past several years about the Kremlin’s maleficent intentions have been amply borne out. “Obviously, he did it,” she told me — the “he” in question being none other than Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Her guess is a sound one. And it’s being echoed by Ukraine whose presidential advisor, Mykhaylo Podolyak, called it a “terrorist attack” and “act of aggression” towards the European Union by Moscow. Who other than Russia had the resources and motive to send commandos and divers deep into the Baltic Sea to wreak havoc on the pipelines?
The blunt fact is that Putin has been steadily seeking to up the ante on the West. The faster his Ukraine venture goes south, the more he seeks to increase the pressure on Europe in the hopes of cracking the Atlantic alliance. But if Moscow did indeed engage in this warlike act, then it has simply committed a fresh blunder. Talleyrand’s comment about Napoleon’s murder of the Duc d’Enghien — “it was worse than a crime; it was a mistake” — comes to mind.
The more ruthlessly Putin behaves, the more united Europe will become in opposition to his mad rule. His accomplishments already number prompting Finland and Sweden to join NATO. Now he’s apparently fulfilled what President Joe Biden promised back in February: “If Russia invades — that means tank or troops crossing the border of Ukraine, again, then there will be no longer a Nord Stream 2.” How right he was.
“This is a completely unprecedented situation that requires urgent investigation,” declared Putin’s press spokesman Dmitry Peskov. “We are extremely concerned about this news.” About as concerned as they were, perhaps, over the need for an investigation into the shooting down of flight MH17 in 2014 over Ukraine or the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko in London in November 2006.
Ultimately, Moscow probably won’t mind if the truth does come out as it testifies to its willingness to do anything anywhere to promote its annexation of various provinces in Ukraine. Putin’s next step may be to start launching cyber attacks against the West. Meanwhile, droning in the background, are his not-so-subtle threats to deploy nuclear weapons against Ukraine after his sham referendums in the Donbas and elsewhere take place.
Perhaps Peskov put it best in discussing the damage to the pipelines. “Nothing,” he said, “can be ruled out.” When it comes to Putin’s Russia, his remark seems quite apt. From Russia with love indeed.
This article was originally published on The Spectator’s UK website.