How sabotaging Nord Stream II directly benefits the US gas industry
By Jason Law
It’s been one year since Russia invaded Ukraine, and over two weeks since Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh published his report on the sabotage of the Nord Stream II Gas Pipeline, in which he described in elaborate detail how the infrastructural attack was covertly conducted by the United States Navy, citing an unnamed source close to the operation as the basis for his allegation.
His story has been met with outright denial and fierce claims of fabrication from the Biden administration aimed at Hersh, despite his well-founded credibility, decades worth of reliable reporting on a number of US scandals and war crimes, and a reputation that real journalists the world over can only ever dream of.
The US government’s denial is about as surprising as the accusation itself – that is, the US government will always deny its own wrongdoings (especially when those wrongdoings were meant to be a secret), and everybody who knows the smallest bit about US history, foreign policy and covert ops was already thinking “USA DID IT”.
Former Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski (emphasis on ‘former’) tweeted on the day of the explosion “Thank You, USA” alongside a photo of NS2’s gas bubbling in the ocean. He deleted the tweet shortly after, but he was not alone in immediately believing Uncle Sam was responsible.
On September 28th, two days after the pipeline explosion, Tucker Carlson during his FOX news segment made strong suggestions that the USA was responsible, citing the now widely circulated clip of Biden saying “”If Russia invades . . . there will no longer be a Nord Stream 2,” to support his suspicions. Who would’ve imagined Tucker Carlson of all people being one of the most reasonable speakers on this issue?
One week after the September 26th pipeline explosion, widely revered geopolitical expert and economist Jeffrey Sachs was one of the first notable public figures to directly blame the USA for the attack, in a live interview on Bloomberg Television. Unsurprisingly, he was promptly shut down by host Tom Keene, but that hasn’t stopped Sachs voicing his well-informed perspectives in various interviews and talks since.
In the months since, it appears that everybody except the various leaders of EU and NATO nations have come to the seemingly obvious conclusion that the USA stood to gain the most from the secrecy-shrouded attack. The initial claims by the West that Russia blew up its own $5billion pipeline are at this point absolutely laughable.
In a recent interview with comedian/actor turned journalist Russell Brand, Seymour Hersh recounted a response to the SubStack report by a close friend who said, “Oh Sy, you have become a master in the deconstruction of the OBVIOUS”. This is perhaps the most apt description of what Hersh has done – he has finally given some foundation to something that most of us already believed was as plain as day.
Many political pundits and independent journalists have expressed that the USA is the main country with the means and the motive to take out the pipeline. With the world’s most powerful Navy and the technological capabilities to launch attacks deep underwater, there is no question that logistically, the USA could conduct the operation if it wanted to.
When it comes to motives, there are many, most of which revolve around natural resources, or more specifically – gas.
As far back as 2019, former President Trump was warning that NS2 could turn Europe into a “hostage of Russia”, and placed sanctions on any company helping Russia to complete the pipeline, as if selling gas to Europe is wrong just by virtue of the supplier not being American. Russia was already supplying cheap gas to Germany through Nord Stream I, so cheap that Germany was able to export excess gas to other European countries at a profit. An additional stream (of gas and revenue) would only mean more competition for the US gas industry.
The mutually beneficial relationship between Russia and Germany and stronger co-operation between the two nations has long been seen as a threat by the USA, as explained by Jacques Baud, a Swiss author and former member of the Swiss Strategic Intelligence and Eastern European expert for NATO.
Additionally, as the second largest producer and number one exporter of natural gas, Russia has long been a competitor in the US’s pursuit of dominating the global energy market. In fact, the USA surpassed Russia as the top producer of natural gas in 2011, and has remained on top since. Interestingly though, the USA’s natural gas production only surpassed domestic usage in 2018, meaning that for the first time since 1949 – the USA had excess gas to export, becoming a net exporter.
Although this move towards energy independence started before Trump’s inauguration in 2017, a mainstay of his presidency was his policy of “America First”, and weening the USA off of dependence on other nations, including energy imports. Though some news sources claimed Trump didn’t actually do well in this regard, we can observe an accelerated boost in natural gas production during Trump’s single term, and a five-fold increase in gas exports, according to the Trump White House. The trend has continued under Biden, whose new ‘Buy America’ strategy is aimed (in part) at growing the USA’s clean energy industry.
With the US and Europe’s outward commitment to switching to greener energy, and natural gas demand expected to grow dramatically in the coming decades, increased production and export of gas is imperative for the USA, both economically and environmentally. However, with Europe already getting its cheap gas from Russia, finding client states with economies large enough to make exporting gas profitable posed a significant challenge for the USA.
So what better way to take out the competition than to sanction the world’s largest exporter of gas and take their customers for yourself? Without going into the complexities of the Ukraine-Russia War here, the timing of the ‘unprovoked’ Russian invasion has played into the hands of the US energy market very conveniently. The Russian invasion, and ensuing sanctions, meant that countries across the world had to find a new source of gas – or find loopholes to buy Russian Gas at the risk of disobeying the American world police.
In 2022, the USA displaced Qatar as the world’s second largest exporter of LNG, but is still miles behind Russia when it comes to overall gas exports. Gas corporations such as Exxon Mobil and Chevron also posted record profits for 2022, yet American households had to pay higher prices for natural gas that year when compared to previous years.
There is no need to spout baseless conspiracy theories about this – evidence of the war benefiting the US gas industry is observable by simply looking at the share prices of the top gas producing companies in the USA, and noting the dates that caused stock prices to drop and then skyrocket. The top 5 US gas producers are, in order from bottom to top; ConocoPhillips, Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP and Shell. It’s worth noting here that the first three are American companies, while Shell and BP are British but produce gas in the US.
The share prices of these US-based gas corporations and companies skyrocketed following the invasion. Over the past year, their values have increased by as much as 45% (Exxon) after several years of steady but slow growth (see slideshow below).
Of particular significance however, is the fact that every single US gas company’s share prices plummeted in the lead up to the Nord Stream II attack, and then promptly shot back up after September 26th, climbing to record highs in the following weeks and months.
These stock market fluctuations could be attributed to Germany’s halting of the NS2 project on Feburary 22nd, just days before Russian forces crossed the Ukrainian border. By August, certain sectors of the German government were considering and even urging other MPs to re-activate the pipeline. German vice president Wolfgang Kubicki suggested allowing the pipeline to begin pumping gas to Germany so that its citizens wouldn’t freeze (how dare he!), which was unsurprisingly met with fierce opposition from Ukraine (and members of his own party).
In September, Russia shut down Nord Stream I, claiming that repairs were needed on the original pipeline. This prompted German lawmakers to debate whether they should switch on NS2. If this had been allowed to happen, then Europe would continue to use Russian gas, which would inevitably harm the US gas market. This could explain the sharp downward trend in the share prices of all US gas companies in the days leading up to the September 26th. It’s also possible that key figures in the industry could have known what the US was planning? Or the sabotage could have been a reaction to dropping share prices, in order to ensure the industry’s continued growth?
Either way, correlation does not imply causation. To suggest that shareholders sold shares prior to the 26th because they somehow knew that the pipeline was about to be sabotaged would be engaging in conspiracy theories. Maybe they just had a ‘feeling’ based on their inexplicable abilities to predict market trends, and initiated a mass sell-off of US gas shares in anticipation of something happening on that date?
Just because corporations control the USA’s judiciary, its political system, and its national wealth, that DOES NOT mean that key figures in the gas industry would be privy to any covert operations being undertaken by the USA that would directly impact their profits.
Just because the gas & energy industry spent 91 million dollars on lobbying in 2022, that does not mean that they would have any direct connection to government officials. To suggest that private corporations would in any way influence the US government’s policy or position on anything, especially something as significant as funding the war in Ukraine and sabotaging a Russian-German pipleline and its potential to escalate to nuclear war, would be a baseless claim based on disinformation and paranoid delusions about imaginary ties between big business and government.
To imagine that the US government engages in wars not for freedom, liberty and equality, but for money and resources – is downright slanderous.
The government only acts on behalf of the people, and represent the interests of all American people, not of an elite class of rich and powerful industry leaders. Everything the USA does in regards to Ukraine and Russia is to defend democracy and freedom – NOT profit!
However, we can say with absolute certainty that the US Gas industry has profited from the ongoing Ukraine war, and profited even more so from the sabotage of the NS2 pipeline. In 2021, the Washington Informer reported that the USA’s post-COVID recovery hinges on the growth of gas and oil industry, which accounts for $1.7 trillion of the USA’s economy (8% of GDP) and provides 11.3 million jobs, and it seems that said growth has come to fruition.
The US economy is becoming increasingly dependent on the gas industry, so what lengths would the government go to in order to uphold it? Would they provoke a proxy war between Russia and Ukraine, and sabotage key infrastructure of one of their own allies? The USA has done far worse for a lot less (see: The Middle East and Oil).
This is all of course, mere speculation. Aside from Seymour Hersh’s very direct accusation of the USA in sabotaging the pipeline, there is no physical evidence to support the claim. Sweden has made sure to keep its investigatory findings from the crime scene a secret.
All that we have to support the belief that the USA attacked NS2 is; the USA’s history of lies, war and interference in global affairs for monetary gain; the indisputable evidence that the US energy industry and arms industry have massively profited from the war in Russia; the postulations of dozens of geopolitical experts and non-NATO government officials; the President saying that Nord Stream II will not happen; and a general feeling held by supposedly billions of people around the world that this action reeks of US involvement. We don’t even need to go into the so-called conspiracy theory here that Joe Biden’s own son Hunter Biden served on the board of Burisma Holdings, one of the largest private natural gas producers in Ukraine – which would add an extra layer of malign intent to the whole thing.
So with all of these things considered, it probably wasn’t the USA that did it. After all, the White House did deny it! And we must always, always trust everything the government tells us.