Intelligence officials recently determined that there is no evidence to link Russia to the sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines, according to The Washington Post, but not until a number of media and intelligence sources were able to baselessly pin blame on the Kremlin.
Danish authorities discovered in September that the pipelines, which carry natural gas from Russia to Europe, were leaking as a result of apparent sabotage. Twenty-three officials across nine different countries were interviewed by the Post since, revealing “no evidence at this point that Russia was behind the sabotage.”
Several of those officials pointed out that it was hard to make sense of why Russia would deliberately trigger explosions of its own infrastructure when it could simply cut gas supply if it wanted. Even those that still believed Russia was the likely perpetrator admitted there was a lack of evidence to prove it.
Still, that didn’t stop corporate Western media and members of the national security apparatus from blaming Russia as soon as the day of the attacks. (RELATED: German Authorities Fear Nord Stream Pipelines May Be Permanently Unusable Following Sabotage)
Some media outlets, like The Hill, asserted as fact that Russia was a “prime suspect,” while others simply raised circumstantial evidence accompanied by accusatory overtones. CNN reported that European officials had noted the presence of Russia ships in nearby areas in the days leading up to the attacks, and The New York Times reported that “many” European officials viewed Putin as “the most likely saboteur.”
Even President Joe Biden seemingly implied that Russia played a role, calling the attacks a “deliberate act of sabotage,” followed immediately by claiming that the “Russians are pumping out disinformation and lies.”
Russia denied responsibility in the aftermath of the attack, blaming the West instead. The Biden administration had previously promised to shut down the pipelines if the Kremlin went ahead with its invasion of Ukraine, while Poland’s representative at the European Union tweeted “Thank you U.S.A.!” after the attack.
The accusations were particularly direct from some in the national security world. “Russia is certainly the most likely suspect,” former CIA Director John Brennan said.
Former DIA intelligence officer Rebekah Koffler wrote an op-ed for Fox News claiming Russia is “likely behind” the attack. Alexander Vindman, the former National Security Council official who testified against former President Donald Trump during his first impeachment trial, asserted that Russia had committed the sabotage.
Russia has massively escalated the conflict this week. 1- Annexation. 2- Blowing gas pipeline. 3- Nuclear saber rattling. U.S./Western response must be commensurate. 1- More weapons. 2- More sanctions. 3- Ukraine NATO accession. 4- Review 🇷🇺 membership in the UN Security Council. pic.twitter.com/q44qzncu5A
— Colonel (fmr.) Vindman 🇺🇸🇺🇦 (@YVindman) September 30, 2022
A senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, Ariel Cohen, referred to the situation as “Russia’s purported sabotage.”
Others seemingly hinted at the Kremlin without naming names, like Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency. “It is not yet known who made it, who is behind this sabotage, there is still discussion more or less but (…) it is very obvious (…) who was behind this issue,” he said at a conference in Paris just days after the attack.
Now that little-to-no evidence has emerged in the months since the leaks, few of the personalities who blamed Russia have walked back their claims.