The Attack on the Russian Pipelines Are Ultimately a Sign of Weakness

Earlier this week an incident occurred that represents a new and alarming threat to peace in the world. I am referring of course to the attack upon two Russian pipelines that occurred in the Baltic Sea. The pipelines, named Nord Stream I and II were designed to bring Russian gas to the European market. Nord Stream II was currently inoperable, its German recipient having made the decision (or was it made for them?) to not accept the gas that it bought.

There has been intense speculation online about who was responsible for what can only be described as a terrorist attack. The names of countries most frequently mentioned in this context are Russia, Poland, Ukraine and the United States. Russia can be ruled out, notwithstanding the somewhat desperate attempts of some media outlets to point the finger at them. Russia has absolutely no motive to cause the damage. If they wished to deny gas to Europe, all they had to do was turn the switch to “off” for that to be achieved.

Ukraine can be ruled out because it lacks the means to achieve this act of sabotage.

The operation was actually quite complex, obviously involving the use of ships in the vicinity to carry the saboteurs. It is extremely doubtful if the Ukrainians have the technical expertise to carry out the operation, much less able to put the naval vehicles in the vicinity to carry out that operation

Poland has both the manpower and the motivation to carry out the attack.  It is extremely doubtful, however, whether they have the political will to carry out such an attack, at least on their own. That leaves the Americans and here much evidence can be mustered on behalf of their being the culprit.

Let us examine that option in terms of the three classic elements used in determining potential culpability: means, motive and opportunity. Means is hardly an issue. The Americans have plenty of people trained specifically in this type of warfare. It would be a simple matter from their perspective to put together a team able to conduct such an operation.

Let’s look at motive. Here there is no shortage of evidence. In February of this year the United States president, Joe Biden, issued a specific threat against Russia should they ever develop the Nord Stream 2 Pipeline and use it to supply gas to Germany. The pipeline was certainly developed and had it not been for the Germans’ capitulation to United States pressure it would have been supplying gas to Germany months ago.

Did the United States fear that Germany would recover its nerve and agree to the pipeline becoming operational, despite the United States pressure? That was certainly a possibility. Although it has not been reported in the western media, there has, in fact, been massive protests in Germany in recent weeks. The deprivation of gas to Germany has not only seen the Germans facing the prospect of a very cold winter but more importantly there has been a large-scale closure of German businesses, and with it a loss of jobs, as firms have reacted to the rapidly diminishing supply of gas that is essential to keep the factories operating. That unrest was placing growing pressure on the German government, some resiling from their earlier reluctance to resist United States pressure was a growing possibility.

That leaves the United States as a prime candidate for being responsible for the sabotage. It marks a wholly new level of irresponsibility by the Americans. Not only have they been prepared to see the collapse of Europe’s strongest economy, it marks a degree of carelessness and indifference to political responses not witnessed in living memory by the United States political class.

Why have they been prepared to adopt such an extreme and risky policy? To answer that question, one has to look wider than Europe. The last several years have seen the steady rise of the Chinese to the point where they are now, in parity progression terms, the world’s strongest economy. The rise in Chinese economic power has been matched by the progressive outgunning of the Americans in a range of social and economic issues. This manifests itself in a variety of ways, including the development of a range of economic groupings that have proved enormously attractive to an ever-growing number of countries in the world. This includes the Belt and Road Initiative which now has more than 145 members, or three quarters of all countries in the world.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is another grouping which currently welcomed Iran as its eighth full member, but has also attracted membership bids from a number of other countries, including, of particular significance, Turkey, which remains for the time being at least, still a member of NATO for whom moves by the SCO remain anathema to them.

The BRICS is a further grouping that has also shown recent signs of expanding its membership from the current five members, drawn from the world’s great continents. None of these developments have been well received by the Americans who see their previous hegemony around the world progressively declining in both power and influence.

It is not a position the Americans accept with any equanimity. The attack upon Russian infrastructure may be interpreted as a desperate attempt to recover its initial primacy. It demonstrates, however, that it is losing the ability to influence the rest of the world.  The desperate attempt by a fading empire to regain its military relevance. The world has had enough of United States bullying and the attack on Nord Stream 1 and 2 will be interpreted in that light.  That they should choose to demonstrate that fading relevance by an attack on a major civilian target will properly be interpreted as a sign of weakness.  The attack on Nord Stream 1 and 2 may be seen by many as just enough to tip the remaining doubters from one camp to another.

James O'Neill is a retired Barrister at Law and geopolitical analyst. He can be contacted at Read other articles by James.