Thursday, 9 February 2023 — Moon of Alabama
Seymour Hersh is a legendary investigative reported who has revealed dozens of crimes the U.S. government committed at home and abroad.
In his latest piece Hersh describes the destruction of the North Stream pipelines in the Baltic Sea by U.S. government forces. The destruction released an enormous amount of methane, a global warming gas. It destroyed Germany’s gas lifeline with Russia and thereby heavily damaged Germany’s industry. It was ecological and economic terrorism by the U.S. government targeted at an ‘ally’.
The story his source is telling Hersh is largely the same one I had constructed from open sources on September 28, a day after the pipeline was blown up.
Whodunnit? – Facts Related to The Sabotage Attack On The Nord Stream Pipelines
Hersh’s story is true. That U.S. officials deny it means nothing. Previous revelations by Hersh on domestic spying by the CIA, on the My Lai massacre, on torture at Abu Ghraib, were also denied but eventually all were proven to be true.
The story about the pipelines makes complete sense. Unfortunately there are some details that Hersh, for lack of access to the right information, gets wrong.
Last June, the Navy divers, operating under the cover of a widely publicized mid-summer NATO exercise known as BALTOPS 22, planted the remotely triggered explosives that, three months later, destroyed three of the four Nord Stream pipelines, according to a source with direct knowledge of the operational planning.
It is unlikely that the explosives were put out while the yearly BALTOPS exercise was still ongoing. The current Wikipedia entry about it says:
A total of 14 NATO nations, including NATO partner nations Finland and Sweden, took part in the 51st BALTOPS exercise between 5 and 17 June 2022. The usual mine hunting exercise was augmented this year with experimental mine hunting unmanned underwater vehicles and the collection of environmental data sets for target recognition algorithms in conjunction with the Naval Undersea Warfare Center and Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific.
BALTOPS 2022 was shadowed by two Russian Karakurt-class corvette.
The whole exercise took only 12 days. A lot of nations took part. Submarines were involved. The Russian’s were around watching what was happening. (They like also had submarines in the wider area.)
Those are not good conditions to do a lot of secret underwater work. It was much easier to do this later, when everyone had turned back to port. The U.S. ships though did not sail home. They stayed around, did some harbor visits and eventually settled down near the island of Bornholm a few miles away from the pipelines where they started to do their work.
Here is where the pipelines were hit:
The four Nord Stream pipelines, two for Nord Stream 1 and two for Nord Stream 2, are strong:
The steel pipe itself has a wall of 4.1 centimeters (1.6 inches), and it’s coated with another 6-11 cm of steel-reinforced concrete. Each section of the pipe weighs 11 tonnes, which goes to 24-25 tonnes after the concrete is applied.
The pipelines are also buried into the sandy sea ground, not deep, but deep enough to prevent fishing equipment or anchors from damaging them.
To blow such pipelines takes a lot more than just putting a few pounds of C4 explosives on top of them. The pipelines had first to be dug out, must likely with pressurized water. Next explosives had to be placed all around them. Then a trigger mechanism of some kind had to be deployed and fixed on to them. Lastly the explosive laden section would have to be reburied to prevent detection or unforeseen entanglement with some external elements. All this had to be done at least four times. If I had planned the operation I probably would have gone for a total of eight explosive packages.
The whole process takes time. Unmanned submarine like vehicles were needed to carry the hundreds of kilograms of explosives and equipment. Diving time at that depth is not unlimited and there must have been a few crew changes. It probably took three to four weeks to fix the whole issue.
When I wrote about the incident I translated a German language report which Hersh had likely not found.
Here is my original translation:
Big Fleet Group From U.S. Navy Passes [German island passage] Fehmanbelt
On Wednesday morning the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge, escorted by the Landing Ships USS Arlington and USS Gunston Hall, was en route towards west. Previously, the ships were part of US units that took part in NATO maneuvers and called at numerous ports in Germany, Scandinavia and the Baltic States.
The “USS Kearsarge”, flagship of the association and largest warship of the US Navy, which was in action in the Baltic Sea in the last 30 years, has 40 helicopters and fighter planes as well as more than 2000 soldiers on board, the escort ships about 1000. For the around 4,000 soldiers are heading back home on the east coast of the US after their six-month deployment.
The USS Kearsarge was much longer in the Baltic Sea than Hersh presumes. The explosives were put down sometime between the end of BALTOPS on June 17 and September 22, the date the USS Kearsarge passed Fehmarn to leave the Baltic Sea.
That’s why Hersh errs when he later writes:
And then: Washington had second thoughts. The bombs would still be planted during BALTOPS, but the White House worried that a two-day window for their detonation would be too close to the end of the exercise, and it would be obvious that America had been involved.
Instead, the White House had a new request: “Can the guys in the field come up with some way to blow the pipelines later on command?”
That window was not extend by months between the end of BALTOPS and the explosions but by a mere few days between somewhat around September 20 when the Kearsarge went on its way back home and September 27 when the pipelines exploded.
Since my translation some content has been added to the German piece to put it in the context of the Russian invasion. It is now dated October 21 2022 which makes no real sense. (The only archive.org copy of the piece is the changed on, saved on December 2022.)
The piece now starts with this (my translation):
Big Fleet Group From U.S. Navy Passes [German island passage] Fehmarnbelt
I don’t remember that there was a sub-headline to it or some sentences about the war in Ukraine but the piece now has those:
On Thursday morning, September 22, a fleet group from the U.S. Navy passed [the German island] Fehmarn. The “USS Kearsarge” as flagship was the biggest of the war ships.
- Russian nuclear submarines and NATO units in strait of Fehmarn
- Ships sail again in western direction
- 40 helicopters and war planes on board
Fehmarn – With the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, which began in February, and with the change in security policy it caused, with NATO entry requests by Finland and Sweden, the Baltic has become a concentration area for naval forces of Russian and NATO. This can be seen in the increasing number of war ships which have passed the strait of Fehmarn [Fehmarnbelt] during the past months. This counts for Russian nuclear submarines just as for NATO units. On Thursday morning, September 22, a fleet group of the U.S. navy passed Fehmarn.
Then follow, seemingly unchanged, the two paragraphs I had translated previously.
It is some weird editorializing to add the now leading new parts to the old small piece by a local newspaper nearly a month after it was originally published. Who initiated that?
The new part does not make sense. BALTOPS is a yearly exercise, BALTOPS 22 was the 51st one of its kind. That it was held had nothing to do with the war in Ukraine.
As far as I can tell there are and were no nuclear submarines from Russia stationed in the way too shallow Baltic Sea. The home harbors of Russia’s nuclear fleets are Murmansk in the northern Kola bay for the Northern and Atlantic fleet and Rybachiy Nuclear Submarine Base on the Kamchatka peninsular for the Pacific fleet.
When a Russian nuclear submarine passes Fehmarn it is most likely one from Murmansk that takes part in the Russian fleet parade in St. Petersburg. That is like BALTOPS a yearly event. To use that for war mongering is rather stupid.
End of excursion.
What was of interest in the piece I had translated was not only the time when the U.S. ships left but also the remark that the Kearsarge was the “largest warship of the US Navy” that was in action in the Baltic Sea in the last 30 years.
The Kearsarge was likely selected for purpose. The ship has a …
… well deck, which opens to the sea through huge gates in the ship’s stern. There, the cargo, troops and vehicles are loaded onto landing craft for transit to the beach. The air cushion landing craft can “fly” out of the dry well deck, or the well deck can be flooded so that conventional landing craft can float out on their way to the beach.
Usually the Kearsarge would be a too big missile target to be in the Baltic Sea. But the well deck comes in handy when one wants to test new underwater equipment or put explosives around pipelines:
In support of BALTOPS, U.S. Navy 6th Fleet partnered with U.S. Navy research and warfare centers to bring the latest advancements in unmanned underwater vehicle mine hunting technology to the Baltic Sea to demonstrate the vehicle’s effectiveness in operational scenarios.
Experimentation was conducted off the coast of Bornholm, Denmark, with participants from Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific, Naval Undersea Warfare Center Newport, and Mine Warfare Readiness and Effectiveness Measuring all under the direction of U.S. 6th Fleet Task Force 68.
Bornholm is of course where the pipelines were blown up.
To me the one new and surprising item in the Hersh piece is the involvement of Norwegian forces to trigger the explosions by sonar buoy signals from a P8 navy surveillance plane. It would have bet on Swedish, British or Polish involvement. But Norway makes even more sense as it will profit from the Nord Stream destruction.
Larry Johnson, an old friend of Sy Hersh, has found a video by someone who had tracked a Norwegian P-8 flying in the pipeline area shortly before the explosion.
Unfortunately for Norway though is that its own, now increased gas exports also depend on pipelines. On the day of the Nord Stream explosions Denmark and Poland inaugurated a new pipeline that brings Norwegian gas to Poland. Russia certainly has the means to do to Norwegian pipelines what the U.S. and Norway have done to Nord Stream.
Another small quip I have with the Hersh piece is this:
Sweden had applied for membership into NATO, and had demonstrated its great skill in managing its underwater sound and magnetic sensor systems that successfully tracked Russian submarines that would occasionally show up in remote waters of the Swedish archipelago and be forced to the surface.
Most of the Russian subs the Swedish detected were never there. More than half of the many incidents were “unlikely violations”, i.e. they never happened. The great Swedish skill is to scare its own population with false alarms about alleged Russian submarines near its coast:
In 1982, several of Sweden’s subs, boats, and helicopters pursued one of these unidentified sources for a whole month, only to come up empty-handed.
This continued for over a decade. Every time they picked up an acoustic signal they would search and find nothing but for a few bubbles on the sea’s surface. Sweden was, of course, worried about the intrusions, and couldn’t think why, with the Cold War now over, Russia would continue to provoke them in this manner.
But it was farts.
“It turns out herring have a swim bladder… and this swim bladder is connected to the anal duct of the fish,” Wahlberg said. “It’s a very unique connection, only found in herring. So a herring can squeeze its swim bladder, and that way it can blurt out a small number of bubbles through the anal opening.”
In layman’s terms, they let one rip. Herrings swim in gigantic schools that can reach several square kilometers and up to 20 meters (65 feet) deep. When something near them frightens them – say, a hungry school of mackerel or a submarine on the lookout for Russian spies – they can generate a lot of gas.
To test his theory, Wahlberg bought a herring from a store and applied pressure, and sure enough, it made a sound. He took the footage to the navy personnel and played it back to them. It was a perfect match for the noise they had been hearing.
The good news was that Sweden wasn’t under threat from Russia, the bad news was it had spent 10 years deploying its military in pursuit of fish farts. Since it figured out what was and wasn’t fish farts, there have been zero reports of hostile intruders in Swedish waters.
Great Swedish skills. Indeed.
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