The Nord Stream sabotage is a case with enough mystery to launch a thousand podcasts. An underwater attack off the coast of Denmark on a key component of Europe’s energy infrastructure during the continent’s largest land war in 70 years would be sensational in itself. But when you add into the mix the myriad potential perpetrators – Russia, the US, Ukraine – all with different motives, it’s not surprising that the world’s media is feverishly reporting every new theory, however lacking in veracity.
On Tuesday, The New York Times alleged that US officials possess fresh (though vaguely attributed) intelligence suggesting that pro-Ukrainian actors were behind the sabotage. Die Zeit has also published new findings suggesting a Ukrainian link. Both accounts refute Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh’s claim last month that a team of elite US military divers placed C4 explosives on the pipelines during a Nato naval exercise to prevent Russia from weaponising European gas supplies. Annoyingly, for amateur sleuths, the same motive could be ascribed to nearly all of the main suspects.
In this conspiracy-obsessed era, journalists should look to the facts first, then the most rational explanations for events. Russia is the most likely culprit: not only did it have the most to gain from the sabotage by destabilising Nato and driving up prices of natural gas, but it is also one of the only actors that would realistically have carried out such a risky attack. While the Swedish and Danish investigators who probably hold the only conclusive evidence remain tight-lipped, exactly what happened at the bottom of the Baltic last September will in all probability remain a mystery. This is frustrating. In the information age, even a little secrecy can create serious ripples.
Alexis Self is Monocle’s foreign editor. For the latest insights, analysis and ideas, as well as stories that you won’t find elsewhere, subscribe to Monocle magazine today.