Seymour Hersh – Nord Stream: “It’s one of the dumbest things the American government has done in years”

Reporter Seymour Hersh (photo) on Democracy Now. An emission “How America Took Out the Nord Stream Pipeline” with his big revelations:

– I’m just writing about inside baseball stuff. It’s the normal things you do. They set up in (White House) a committee to think of options. Russia was clearly going to go. The threat the president had yet to make had not been made, and this is December, before New Year’s Day, of the year before, 2021. And the question inside the committee, and it included the usual — CIA, NSA, Treasury Department, State Department, you name it — and they met in a secret office building in the — across the street from the White House in the Executive Office Building. The option was: ‘Do you want us to do something kinetic or something not kinetic?’ In other words, not kinetic would be more sanctions, and something kinetic would be, you know, taking out the pipeline, as had been thought about.

– A lot of sophisticated people in the intelligence and operation community concluded you could do it, and the White House was told ‘it was possible’. None of the rules of reporting to Congress involved are involved — were involved.

– And so they began their planning. They went to Norway, which is a great ally of ours. Norway was one of the original signers of the 1949 NATO treaty. I think 19 nations were involved then. And Norway is a great ally. We have spent — I write about this in some detail in the article — hundreds of millions, probably more, closer to a billion or more, upgrading facilities. Norway has a 1,400-mile border along the Atlantic coast that goes from Oslo, in Europe, all the way up north into — it runs into the Russian border above the Arctic Circle. So, we do — we put a lot of facilities up north there — synthetic-aperture radar, which costs a fortune, to monitor the Russian nuclear sites around and also their military activities around there, up in the other side of the peninsula, the Kola Peninsula. So, they’re just our guys. And they’re also great at doing underwater stuff. And so, that’s what happened. We did a plan with them.

– And the miners came from a little town in Florida. And the mining community in the Navy is very secret, and they just do their business. They don’t talk. That was perfect people to get. And they practiced it. And as you said, there was a major exercise every summer by the 6th Fleet, which — the Americas 6th Fleet out of Italy, which controls — also has the operational rights in the Baltic Sea. Baltic Sea is a huge place.

– The pipelines we’re talking about, Nord Stream 1, which came alive in 2011, and Nord Stream 2 was actually done, but the Germans, that are ready to pump pump, has 750 miles. And they go straight from Russia, which is loaded with all kinds of gas — in Siberia, they have enormous reserves — directly into Germany.

– And I can tell you, Nord Stream 1 was a godsend for the German economy and Western Europe. They produce so much gas at such low prices that the German government was actually able to resell some of the gas the Russians were providing at a profit, without Russia objecting. And so, the German economy is huge. It’s booming. You know, the cars, we know about. Germany has the largest chemical company in the world, BASF. And everybody is — right now it’s hell to pay. It’s gotten very cold there. There’s a lot of anger.

– Anyway, what happened is, there was an exercise in June, and it was supposed to — the bombs were put in there under the cover of a NATO exercise. There were a lot of different countries running around with divers and blowing up things. It was an exercise to go find and chase mines. There never had been one before. It actually was — whoever in the CIA or in the other agencies that thought this up should get a bow, because it was pretty ingenious. So, in that exercise, the divers went down, did what they were trained to do. They’re very good. C4, a couple hundred — whatever the weight is — bombs enough to blow up most cities, most buildings in Washington, and maybe some in New York. Anyway, they did their job.

– But the president, at the last minute, hesitated, because he was afraid blowing it up right after the exercise would put the finger at us. And then he wanted permission to do it anytime, and that caused an enormous trouble in the team. The team was — you know, people are sophisticated in the intelligence services.

– I know we have clichés about them. We see the movies about them. And the bottom line is, this made sense to them, blowing up a pipeline. Blowing up a pipeline owned by — it’s actually owned by a division of — Gazprom owns 51%. 49 percent of the Nord Stream 1 are owned by four business groups in the Western Europe who farm out the oil. Anyway, they saw the threat as being valid. And if you wanted to do it during an exercise, well, OK.

– But in September, late September, they got the word… So, when he did that, here’s what Biden did. And this is what I think the ultimate point of the story, why so many people, even the intelligence community, are very troubled by it. What he did is he said, “I’m in a big war with Ukraine. It’s not looking good. I want to be sure I get German and West European support. And I know winter is coming, and if it’s going to be bad, I don’t want the Germans to say, ’We’ve got to check out, because we’re getting massacred. We’ll be massacred with no cheap fuel, and our economy will go bonkers. We’re going to check out, and we’re going to open up the gas line,’” which they could do. So he took away that option.

– The fear was Europe would pass away, walk away from the war. Now what he’s done — and you have to lift it up a little bit. There you go. There. Now what he’s done is he’s told Europe, “You’re second rate.” And I think the consequences of this for the Europeans are going to be horrific. They really — this has cut into the notion that they can depend totally on America, even in a crisis. And I think it’s going to undercut NATO, which I always found to be supremely useless, but certainly that European countries are going to be — I know people that are paying five times as much now for electricity. People are paying three or four times more for gas. It’s very expensive.

– And anyway, I think the consequences politically for us are enormous. I think the reason that Biden and his people in the White House have denied the story and continue to deny it, and yet accepted by some of the press — my old newspaper, ‘The New York Times’, I don’t know why they’re not doing more reporting on this, instead of relying on a denial and walking away from the story. Ditto for ‘The Washington Post’. I think the consequences politically for us in the long run, looking at even potential some countries walking out of NATO.

– I think the point I’m making is I’m still going to do more reporting on this, because there’s still things I need to write about later. I think that this has probably been, in the view of some of the people who did it, one of the dumbest things the American government has done in years.

International Affairs