Just when speculation and an avalanche of theories have inundated the web on an array of international outlets, the Biden administration has bluntly (and apparently lacking self-awareness) boasted that the pipeline bombings present an “opportunity”.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a Friday joint press briefing with Canada’s top diplomat that the damage and disruption to the pipelines are being seen in Washington as a “tremendous opportunity” to greatly reduce European energy imports on Russia.
In addressing the ‘mystery’ sabotage incidents, Blinken began, “I think first it’s important to make clear that these pipelines – that is, Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 – were not pumping gas into Europe at this time. Nord Stream 2 never became operational, as is well known. Nord Stream 1 has been shut down for weeks because of Russia’s weaponization of energy.”
A mere few sentences later, he followed by saying “ultimately this is also a tremendous opportunity. It’s a tremendous opportunity to once and for all remove the dependence on Russian energy and thus to take away from Vladimir Putin the weaponization of energy as a means of advancing his imperial designs.”
He at the same time touted that the Untied States has now become “the leading supplier of LNG [liquefied natural gas] to Europe,” stressing too that the Biden administration is helping to enable European leaders to “decrease demand” and “speed up the transition to renewables.”
Tellingly, in that single section of comments while speaking alongside his Canadian counterpart, Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly, Blinken had repeated the word “opportunity” while highlighting the European energy crisis no less than three times.
According to @SecBlinken, the Nord Stream pipeline bombing “offers tremendous strategic opportunity for the years to come.” Too bad that this tremendous opportunity for DC bureaucrats will come at the expense of everyone else, especially this coming winter. pic.twitter.com/T2eacQUuBF
— Aaron Maté (@aaronjmate) October 1, 2022
Canada’s Joly for her part pointed the finger at Russia for sabotaging its own pipeline during a panel discussion the same day, telling an Atlantic Council conference that the world is “not naïve” about who is responsible for the acts of “sabotage”. She’s the latest top official of a NATO government to do so.
But the Canadian foreign affairs minister stopped short of naming Russia directly in the exchange:
“At this point we’re still investigating, but obviously we want to make sure that we do things the right way, but we’re not naïve,” she said.
“You’re not naïve as to who’s behind it?” Sciutto responded.
“As I said, we won’t speculate but at the same time, we want to make sure that — the world needs to understand that this is very important European infrastructure that was sabotaged,” the minister added.
On the other side of the question of culprits and the crucial cui bono question, The American Conservative offers the following commentary:
One could certainly see why sabotaging Nord Stream benefits the US. We didn’t want Europe to get Nord Stream in the first place, because it would make Europe dependent on Russian gas. This is perfectly reasonable, from an American point of view. However, if Washington sabotaged those pipelines in the middle of the Ukraine-Russia war, that would mean an insane escalation of the war, to sabotaging critical infrastructure.
Think about it: if Russia can’t deliver gas to Europe anyway, because the pipelines are too damaged, that makes it harder to make peace and restore energy flow to Europe. This fits Washington’s policy goals. That doesn’t mean Washington is responsible for this sabotage, but there’s a lot more reason for Washington to have blown the pipelines up than for Russia.
The publication continues, “Prominent Polish politician Radek Sikorski understood this, firing off this ill-advised tweet as soon as the news broke.”…
Finally, we note that China state-affiliated media mouthpiece could not resist commenting on Blinken’s apparently cluelessly ironic comments, saying what much of the rest-of-the-world is perhaps thinking…
Taking the sabotage of Nord Stream pipelines as a “tremendous opportunity” is such undisguised comment, isn’t it? Isn’t Mr. Blinken worried that his remarks will make the world believe “whoever benefits did it”? pic.twitter.com/X8NwAX75w2
— Hu Xijin 胡锡进 (@HuXijin_GT) October 2, 2022
Below is the full section of transcript and context wherein Secretary Blinken dubbed the pipeline incident and European energy crisis a “tremendous opportunity” [emphasis ours]…
* * *
“I think first it’s important to make clear that these pipelines – that is, Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 – were not pumping gas into Europe at this time. Nord Stream 2 never became operational, as is well known. Nord Stream 1 has been shut down for weeks because of Russia’s weaponization of energy.
What we’ve been doing – and we’ve also been working on this together for many, many weeks as we saw the Russian aggression in Ukraine and as we saw the ongoing weaponization of energy by Russia – is to work very closely with European partners as well as countries around the world to make sure that there is enough energy on world markets. And so we’ve significantly increased our production as well as making available to Europe liquefied natural gas. And we’re now the leading supplier of LNG to Europe to help compensate for any gas or oil that it’s losing as a result of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.
We’ve worked to release oil from our Strategic Petroleum Reserve to make sure as well that there is oil on the markets and to help keep prices down. We’ve engaged with the European Union and established months ago a task force to work directly with Europe on ways to decrease demand to help get through the winter, as well as to pursue additional supply and to find ways to speed up the transition to renewables even as we’re getting through this challenging period. So all of that work is ongoing.
My own sense – and I mentioned this the other day – is, look, there’s a lot of hard work to do to make sure that countries and partners get through the winter. Europe itself has taken very significant steps to both decrease demand but also look at ways to pursue the transition to renewables at the same time. And ultimately this is also a tremendous opportunity. It’s a tremendous opportunity to once and for all remove the dependence on Russian energy and thus to take away from Vladimir Putin the weaponization of energy as a means of advancing his imperial designs.
That’s very significant and that offers tremendous strategic opportunity for the years to come, but meanwhile, we’re determined to do everything we possibly can to make sure that the consequences of all of this are not borne by citizens in our countries or, for that matter, around the world.”
Natural gas started flowing to Poland through the new Baltic Pipe pipeline from Norway via the Baltic Sea on the morning of Oct. 1, Polish gas pipeline operator Gaz-System said.
“Promises made over six years ago have been kept,” Gaz-System said, according to a translation of its Oct. 1 statement.
Gas started flowing at 6:10 a.m. on Oct. 1 via the Baltic Pipe pipeline, with nominations—or requests for sending gas through the pipeline—totaled 62.4 million kilowatt-hours (kwh), the company added.
“This is a historic moment and one that we’ve been awaiting for many years,” Anna Moskwa, Poland’s minister for climate and the environment, said in a statement.
The pipeline is at the center of Poland’s long-standing strategy to diversify its gas supplies away from Russia.
Construction of the Baltic Pipe system, which has an annual capacity of 10 billion cubic meters, resumed in March after a 33-month hiatus over environmental concerns.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at the end of February not only forced European countries to rethink their reliance on Russian energy but also added impetus to completing the construction of the Baltic Pipeline linking Poland to Norwegian gas fields.
Construction of the pipeline was completed on Sept. 27, with Polish President Andrzej Duda calling it “one of the most significant days since 1989,” referring to the toppling of communism in the Eastern European country.
“This is a great day. A great day for Poland, for Denmark, Norway, and the entire European Union. It’s a great day for our part of Europe, for building security, peace, and for strengthening our sovereignty,” he said, according to the Office of the President.
Moskwa said in a statement that by diversifying gas supplies, Poland has become “energy secure” and that completion of Baltic Pipe is a symbol of Poland’s “energy sovereignty.”
Russia cut gas supplies to Poland in April when it refused to pay in roubles.
The gas leak in the Baltic Sea from Nord Stream photographed from the Coast Guard’s aircraft on Sept. 27, 2022. (Swedish Coast Guard via AP)
Baltic Pipe was officially inaugurated a day after leaks were detected in the subsea Nord Stream gas pipelines linking Russia to Europe.
Earlier this week, researchers with seismology agencies in Denmark and Sweden found that the damage to the Nord Stream pipelines was most likely caused by explosions and ruled out the possibility of natural causes.
According to data released by a team of seismologists, the blasts occurred in the vicinity of the location of the pipelines. Both Danish and Swedish seismic agencies picked up the alleged explosions on Sept. 26.
Ukraine has declared it has retaken the key eastern city of Lyman in Donetsk – one of the four provinces formally annexed by Russia during a ceremony overseen by President Vladimir Putin on Friday. With the Kremlin having since confirmed a withdrawal from the city, it marks a huge blow to Russian forces and the strategic objective of asserting full control over the Donbas.
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry on Sunday described Lyman as “fully cleared of the Russian occupiers” shortly after noon local time, with social media videos showing Ukrainian soldiers erecting Ukrainian flags over the city. “Ukrainian Air Assault Forces are entering Lyman,” it said.
Serhiy Haidai, who is President Zelensky’s chief adviser on the Donbas and regional governor of Luhansk, said on Twitter, “Lyman has been completely cleaned,” and that “We are waiting for beginning of large-scale process of deoccupation of Luhansk region.”
With a pre-war population of over 20,000 people, Lyman has been described since the start of the Russian invasion as a key logistics and transportation hub of the east.
Russia’s defense ministry on Saturday issued a statement confirming its forces have withdrawn: “In connection with the creation of a threat of encirclement, the allied troops were withdrawn from the settlement of Krasny Lyman to more favorable lines,” it said in a daily briefing.
Last week, the Kremlin said that it’s wouldn’t contemplate ending its “special operation” until at least all of the Donbas – as well as the totality of the four annexed territories – have been secured. This includes the Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporozhye regions – none of which at this point are under 100% Russian control.
The city center of Lyman today.
Servicemen of the 81st Airborne Brigade and National Guard tore down the enemy’s flags. pic.twitter.com/5w2DpSfqId
— Defense of Ukraine (@DefenceU) October 1, 2022
Yet during his major speech declaring that the territories have now been politically absorbed into the Russian Federation, President Putin said they are “ours forever” and vowed to defend them by all available means.
The Kremlin has emphasized that “Any strikes targeting the new areas after their accession to Russia will be considered aggression against us.” The threats have been widely viewed as indicating Russia is about to send significantly more troops to the battlefield, after the mobilization of some 300,000 reservists – though some say this figure could be even higher.
According to the Moscow Times:
The Russian decision to withdraw from Lyman led to immediate criticism from Kremlin allies.
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov posted on messaging app Telegram that, if it was his decision, he would demote the commander in charge of the Lyman operation, “strip him of his medals and send him to the front with a rifle to wash away his humilation in blood.”
Stunned reactions keep coming in with respect to Ukraine reclaiming Lyman. Andrey Gurulyov, former deputy commander of Russia’s southern military district, said he couldn’t explain the defeat. He blamed in on a system of lies, “top to bottom” and was suddenly disconnected. pic.twitter.com/O4aoRqVx96
— Julia Davis (@JuliaDavisNews) October 2, 2022
And over the weekend some pundits on Russian television expressed their shock and anger, as calls for greater Russian mobilization and intervention grow from some Kremlin circles.