The newspaper quoted unnamed “U.S. officials” who refused to talk about the “intelligence” that blames a pro-Ukraine group not linked to Kiev and that conveniently points the story away from possible U.S. involvement, reports Joe Lauria.
By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News
A shadowy “pro-Ukraine group” that had no ties to the Ukrainian government blew up the Nord Stream pipelines last September, The New York Times reported on Tuesday, citing anonymous “U.S. officials” who called it “the first significant known lead about who was responsible for the attack.”
The second paragraph of the 2,039-word story averts blame from the Ukrainian government, which has been portrayed in Western media as worthy of unconditional support as the victim of an “unprovoked” Russian attack.
“U.S. officials said that they had no evidence President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine or his top lieutenants were involved in the operation, or that the perpetrators were acting at the direction of any Ukrainian government officials,” the Times said.
“Ukrainian government and military intelligence officials say they had no role in the attack and do not know who carried it out,” the Times says. But it added that “Ukraine and its allies have been seen by some officials as having the most logical potential motive to attack the pipelines.”
The report says that any suggestion of direct or indirect Ukrainian involvement could sour “support among a German public that has swallowed high energy prices in the name of solidarity” with Ukraine.
The newspaper also warns that:
“Any findings that put blame on Kyiv or Ukrainian proxies could prompt a backlash in Europe and make it harder for the West to maintain a united front in support of Ukraine.
U.S. officials and intelligence agencies acknowledge that they have limited visibility into Ukrainian decision-making.”
The Times reports in the fifth paragraph of its story that its unnamed sources refuse to talk about the intelligence, which doesn’t provide any “firm” conclusions.
“U.S. 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, leaving open the possibility that the operation might have been conducted off the books by a proxy force with connections to the Ukrainian government or its security services.” the newspaper said.
The newspapers’ sources know very little about who these suspects are that they are now pointing to.
“U.S. officials said there was much they did not know about the perpetrators and their affiliations,” the paper said. “The review of newly collected intelligence suggests they were opponents of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, but does not specify the members of the group, or who directed or paid for the operation.”
The report says the individuals involved were “most likely Ukrainian or Russian nationals, or some combination of the two.” To leave no doubts, the paper reports that “U.S. officials said no American or British nationals were involved.”
The Times says European officials investigating the sabotage say it was “probably state sponsored, possibly because of the sophistication with which the perpetrators planted and detonated the explosives on the floor of the Baltic Sea without being detected.”
But U.S. officials “have not stated publicly that they believe the operation was sponsored by a state.” The report does not say whether they believe that privately.
Because of the sophistication of the operation, the newspaper cites “U.S. officials who have reviewed the new intelligence” as saying that “the explosives were most likely planted with the help of experienced divers who did not appear to be working for military or intelligence services,” but who may have “received specialized government training in the past.”
A European elected official who spoke to the newspaper said “an estimated 45 ‘ghost ships’ whose location transponders were not on or were not working when they passed through the area, possibly to cloak their movements. The lawmaker was also told that more than 1,000 pounds of ‘military grade’ explosives were used by the perpetrators.”
The C.I.A. declined to comment for the Times report and the White House told the newspaper to talk to European officials conducting their own probes.
For the first time in its news columns, The New York Times mentions a report last month by one of its former prized investigative reporters, Seymour Hersh, who also relied on an anonymous source to provide a detailed account of how the United States, with the approval of President Joe Biden and using U.S. Navy divers, carried out the sabotage.
The Times, however, did not provide a link to the Hersh report published on his Substack page, which has gained traction around the world.
The newspaper does refer to Hersh citing a “preinvasion threat” by Biden “cryptically” telling a press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in February 2022 that if Russia invaded Ukraine “there will be no longer a Nord Stream 2. We will bring an end to it.” When a German reporter asked how, Biden said, “I promise you we’ll be able to do it.”
But the Times adds: “U.S. 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 U.S. involvement.”
Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former U.N. correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and numerous other newspapers, including The Montreal Gazette and The Star of Johannesburg. He was an investigative reporter for the Sunday Times of London, a financial reporter for Bloomberg News and began his professional work as a 19-year old stringer for The New York Times. He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @unjoe