‘Avoid Speculation’ about Responsibility for 2022 Nord Stream Pipeline Incident, Official Urges Security Council, Stressing United Nations Cannot Verify Claims
With the one-year anniversary of the war in Ukraine just days away, the senior United Nations political affairs official told the Security Council today that the Organization is not in a position to verify or confirm any recent claims regarding alleged acts of sabotage against the two Nord Stream undersea gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea, in September 2022.
Rosemary A. DiCarlo, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs in the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, urged the 15-member Council to show restraint and avoid speculation. “We should avoid any unfounded accusations that could further escalate the already heightened tensions in the region and potentially inhibit the search for the truth,” she stressed, adding that what happened beneath the waters of the Baltic Sea remains unclear. Describing the incident’s fallout as one of many risks the invasion of Ukraine has unleashed on the planet, she declared: “One year since the start of the war, we must redouble our efforts to end it, in line with international law and the [United Nations] Charter.”
Jeffrey D. Sachs, a professor at Columbia University, also briefed delegates, noting that the destruction of the Nord Stream pipelines required a very high degree of planning, expertise and technological capacity. Only a handful of State-level actors have both the technical capacity and the access to the Baltic Sea needed to have carried out such an attack. Describing himself as a specialist in the global economy and emphasizing that he represents no Government or organization in his testimony, he said a recent article in the Washington Post news outlet revealed that the intelligence agencies of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries have privately concluded that there is no evidence that the Russian Federation carried out the attack.
He said a detailed account of the Nord Stream destruction by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh attributes the pipeline destruction to a decision ordered by United States President Joe Biden and carried out by United States agents in a covert operation. President Biden’s Administration has responded by characterizing Hersh’s account as “completely and utterly false”, he added. Against that complex backdrop, he urged the Council to require Denmark, Germany and Sweden to submit to it the results of their ongoing investigations of the Nord Stream incidents.
Also briefing today was Ray McGovern, a political activist, who said his remarks are in his personal capacity and reflect his 27-year-long career as an information analyst in the United States intelligence community. Referring to the article published by Seymour Hersh — who often attracts whistle-blowers because of his perfect record of protecting their identities and accurately publishing what they reveal — he said those attempting to smear Mr. Hersh themselves lack a strong record of credibility. He also shared his views on the broader geopolitical landscape, referencing events from past decades and threats facing the planet today.
As Council members took the floor, the representative of the Russian Federation said his delegation convened today’s meeting because Seymour Hersh’s investigation, released on 8 February, showed that the United States executed the Nord Stream sabotage with the help of a NATO ally — a use of force not in line with the aims of the United Nations. His delegation has proposed a draft resolution asking the Secretary-General to set up an independent, international investigation to verify the facts put forward by Mr. Hersh and other journalists. Detailing his doubts about the impartiality of the investigations now being carried out, he said the Russian Federation’s appeals to be involved in those probes have been hypocritically ignored.
The representative of the United States said today’s meeting is a blatant attempt by the Russian Federation to distract from the impact of its illegal and full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which will be deliberated on by the General Assembly later this week. This is not the first time that Moscow has used its seat on the Council to amplify conspiracy theories from the Internet, he pointed out, stressing that accusations that the United States was involved in the act of sabotage on the Nord Stream pipelines are completely false.
Many delegates condemned the September 2022 sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines, which are critical civilian infrastructure, and voiced their concerns about the environmental fallout of the resulting gas leaks. Mozambique’s representative, for one, said it is imperative that a thorough investigation is conducted to determine the real cause of the Nord Stream pipeline incident. Together with the potential security implications, those events could also represent an ecological danger, he warned, noting that the release of harmful substances into the environment can have long-lasting consequences for both ecosystems and the health of local communities.
The representative of China said it is increasingly clear that the damage to the Nord Stream pipelines was a deliberate human act. Voicing support for an expedited investigation, he said the United Nations can play an active role by ensuring the security of transboundary infrastructure, among other things. He welcomed the draft resolution tabled by the Russian Federation and underscored the importance of authorizing an impartial investigation into the sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines.
However, other delegates emphasized that there is no need for an additional investigation into the incident, citing probes already under way under the auspices of Denmark, Germany and Sweden. In that vein, the representative of Albania described the September 2022 attacks as unacceptable and said he looked forward to the conclusion of the investigation now under way. A parallel investigation is not necessary, as no new facts have been presented, he said, agreeing with several other speakers that today’s meeting only aims to divert attention from upcoming events scheduled to mark the first anniversary of the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine.
Echoing that view, the United Kingdom’s representative said it was unclear why, after five months, the Russian Federation is suddenly pursuing the issue with such urgency. He welcomed the joint letter from Denmark, Sweden and Germany informing United Nations Member States that investigations are ongoing and voiced his delegation’s full support. He agreed that the likely real reason for the Russian Federation’s urgency today is a desperate desire to shift attention away from the massive casualties suffered recently by its military and from the devastation it has wrought on the people of Ukraine.
Also speaking today were delegates from Ecuador, Gabon, United Arab Emirates, Ghana, Switzerland, Japan, Brazil, France and Malta.
The meeting began at 3:03 p.m. and ended at 4:27 p.m.
ROSEMARY A. DICARLO, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs in the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, recalled that on 30 September 2022, Navid Hanif, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development at the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, briefed the Council on the reported leaks in the Nord Stream gas pipelines. His briefing was based on information and data from publicly available sources. Today’s briefing is based on publicly available information available to date. As Assistant Secretary-General Hanif reported, between 26 and 29 September 2022 four leaks were detected in the Nord Stream undersea pipelines in the Baltic Sea, near the island of Bornholm. The first leak was reported on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline on the morning of 26 September, when seismologists detected a spike in activity. The second and third leaks were reported in the evening of 26 September on the Nord Stream 1 pipeline. A fourth leak was reported in the morning of 29 September on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. Gas supplies flowing from Nord Stream 1 were halted in September, while Nord Stream 2 never entered service.
Nevertheless, she said, the pipelines reportedly held several hundred million cubic meters of natural gas at the time of the incidents. Danish, German and Swedish officials announced they would launch separate investigations into the leaks. The Russian Federation also expressed interest in joining the investigations, while voicing concern that a deliberate act of sabotage and terrorism might be to blame for the explosions that caused the leaks. In October, Danish Police reported that a preliminary investigation found that “powerful explosions” caused the damage. A month later, the Swedish Security Service and Prosecution Authority reported that, according to their preliminary findings, the pipelines had been subject to “gross sabotage”. Swedish officials stated that, in the investigations carried out on site in the Baltic Sea, extensive damage to the gas pipelines resulting from detonations was found. Swedish authorities also seized “foreign items” and found explosive residue on a number of them. Presently, German and Danish investigations are also ongoing.
Citing new reports alleging acts of sabotage involving the two pipelines, she reiterated that the United Nations is not in a position to verify or confirm any of the claims relating to those incidents and is awaiting the findings of ongoing national investigations. “Given the sensitivity and speculation regarding this issue, we urge all concerned to show restraint and avoid any speculation,” she said, adding: “We should avoid any unfounded accusations that could further escalate the already heightened tensions in the region and potentially inhibit the search for the truth.” While exactly what happened beneath the waters of the Baltic Sea in September 2022 remains unclear, she emphasized that one thing is certain — whatever caused the incident, its fallout is one of many risks the invasion of Ukraine has unleashed.
JEFFREY D. SACHS, Professor at Columbia University in the United States, said he is a specialist in the global economy and represents no Government or organization in his testimony. As the destruction of the Nord Stream pipelines on 26 September 2022 constitutes an act of international terrorism and represents a threat to peace, it is the Council’s responsibility to take up the question of who might have carried out the act, help bring the perpetrator to justice, pursue compensation for the damaged parties and prevent such actions from recurring in the future. Noting the vast economic losses related to the pipeline itself and the heightened threat to transboundary infrastructure, he pointed out that the global transformation to green energy will require considerable infrastructure of that sort. Countries need full confidence that their infrastructure will not be destroyed by third parties.
The destruction of the Nord Stream pipelines required a very high degree of planning, expertise and technological capacity, he continued, adding that only a handful of State-level actors have both the technical capacity and access to the Baltic Sea to have carried out this action. These include the Russian Federation, the United States, the United Kingdom, Poland, Norway, Germany, Denmark and Sweden, either individually or in some combination. Ukraine lacks the necessary technologies, as well as access to the Baltic Sea, he added.
He went on to note that a recent report by the Washington Post news outlet revealed that the intelligence agencies of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries have privately concluded that there is no evidence that the Russian Federation carried out the act. Denmark, Germany and Sweden have reportedly carried out investigations of the Nord Stream terrorism incident, and while Sweden has perhaps the most to tell the world about the crime scene, that country has kept the results of its investigation secret from the rest of the world. It has refused to share its findings with the Russian Federation and turned down a joint investigation with Denmark and Germany. The Council must require those countries to immediately turn over the results of their investigations, he emphasized.
Pointing to investigative journalist Seymour Hersh’s detailed account of the Nord Stream destruction, he said his work attributes the Nord Stream destruction to a decision ordered by United States President Joseph R. Biden and carried out by United States agents in a covert operation. The Biden Administration has described Hersh’s account as “completely and utterly false” but did not offer any information contradicting Hersh’s account and/or any alternative explanation. He voiced his hope that the United States, together with all other Council members, will condemn that heinous act of international terrorism and join in an urgent Council-led investigation. The world will be safe only when the Council’s permanent members work together diplomatically to resolve global crises, including the war in Ukraine and the rising tensions in East Asia, he added.
RAY MCGOVERN, political activist, also briefed the Council, stating that his remarks are in his personal capacity and reflect his 27-year-long career as an information analyst in the United States intelligence community. Outlining the many weapons treaties on which he worked over the years — including those between the United States and what is now the Russian Federation — he said that, more recently, various United States Presidents have pulled out of important bilateral agreements. He also recalled the history of false information provided to the Security Council by those in the United States who believed that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, which it did not.
Referring to an article published recently by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh — who attributes the Nord Stream pipeline destruction to a decision ordered by United States President Joseph R. Biden and carried out by United States agents — he stressed that Mr. Hersh attracts whistle-blowers because of his perfect record of protecting their identities and accurately publishing what they reveal, despite Government attacks. While some are now smearing Mr. Hersh, such critics do not themselves have a good record of credibility. Commenting on the idea that the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine was unprovoked, he pointed out that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) more than doubled in size, despite its promises not to. When Crimea was annexed by the Russian Federation, President Vladimir Putin noted that the country had to annex Crimea due to a February 2014 coup, and due to the prospect that medium-range ballistic missiles will be placed in already operational systems in Romania and Poland. Despite being disguised as anti-ballistic missile systems, they can easily accommodate hypersonic missiles, he stressed.
Emphasizing that all those matters have a human dimension despite their highly technical nature, he recalled that the United States suffered an extremely bleak period over the many years that suppressed its African-descended citizens. “We have to keep on moving forward, never turning back,” he said, reciting the lyrics of an old Civil Rights era song from the United States. It is up to the Council to keep moving forward and to reject efforts return global relations to an even darker moment, he concluded.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said this significant meeting is coming together with a very different tone than the 30 September 2022 meeting on the same subject, namely the sabotage committed against the Nord Stream gas pipelines. It was clear at that time, in principle, who could be behind that act of international terrorism. The Russian Federation initiated criminal proceedings under its criminal code. Meanwhile, the United States leadership made several statements, which boiled down to the following: If the Russian Federation continues to act in a way that is not pleasing to the United States, the Nord Stream pipeline would be destroyed. The United States totally denied its participation in the sabotage, and still does.
His delegation convened the meeting because on 8 February, journalist Seymour Hersh released information showing that the United States executed the sabotage and did so with the help of a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) ally. He proved that American divers in summer 2022 planted explosives under the Nord Stream, which were activated three months later by the Norwegians. What happened represents the use of force with means that are not in line with aims of the United Nations, he said, describing the depth of information as astonishing and collected by a journalist with a flawless reputation. Along with its allies, the United States supports a rules-based order where the rules are dictated by themselves, and now they have blown up a foreign pipeline that is the property of a party with whom they are not at war.
Warning that such actions may be a precursor to other operations meant to weaken different States, he said the chances are high this could happen again, especially if the perpetrators of the Nord Stream pipeline explosion are not brought to justice and compensation is not received by the victims. The Russian Federation is not here to set up a trial in the Council, but rather has proposed a draft resolution asking the Secretary-General to set up an independent, international investigation to verify the facts put forward by Mr. Hersh and others. His delegation doubts the impartiality of the investigations now being carried out, which are not transparent, and Moscow’s requests to be involved in the investigations have been hypocritically ignored. Against that backdrop, he hoped the Council would take the steps necessary.
DOMINGOS ESTÊVÃO FERNANDES (Mozambique) said it is imperative that a thorough investigation is conducted to determine the real cause of the 2022 Nord Stream pipeline incident. He called on all involved Governments to act in good faith and in an expeditious and thorough manner, while taking into account the seriousness of allegations of sabotage. Together with the potential security implications, the Nord Stream incident could also represent an ecological danger, he said, noting that the release of harmful substances into the environment can have long-lasting consequences for both ecosystems and the health of local communities. Noting that the European Space Agency estimated that the emissions leaked from the Nord Stream pipelines are roughly equivalent to one and a half days of global methane emissions, he said it is the Council’s responsibility to take all necessary measures to minimize such harm and ensure that such incidents are prevented in the future.
MONICA SOLEDAD SANCHEZ IZQUIERDO (Ecuador) said nothing justifies attacks against essential civilian infrastructure, including energy infrastructure. She also highlighted the serious environmental consequences of attacks on energy pipelines, condemning the attacks that struck Nord Stream in September 2022 and urging all United Nations Member States to exercise the greatest caution and maximum restraint. She welcomed the joint letter sent to inform the Council about the ongoing investigations under way, which are being undertaken in line with the fundamental principle of the rule of law. Against that backdrop, the global community and the Council in particular must support the investigations and avoid any actions that might limit them or disrupt them.
EDWIGE KOUMBY MISSAMBO (Gabon) said today’s meeting is being held to again consider the strong suspicion of sabotage that accompanied the leak of gas from the Nord Stream undersea pipelines in the Baltic Sea. Pointing out that leaks of gas are more warming to the environment than carbon dioxide, she described the incident in September 2022 as a genuine environmental disaster. The Council’s 30 September meeting showed that the possibility of an accident was excluded and an investigation was needed. Joining other speakers in condemning the unjustifiable attacks on civilian infrastructure — which damaged the environment and created economic shocks — she called on all parties to demonstrate responsibility and ensure those responsible for the attacks are held accountable.
THOMAS PATRICK PHIPPS (United Kingdom) condemned the acts of sabotage targeting the Nord Stream pipeline. However, it is not clear to his delegation why, after five months, the Russian Federation is suddenly pursuing the issue with such urgency. He welcomed the joint letter from Denmark, Sweden and Germany informing United Nations Member States that investigations are ongoing and voiced full support for those technical investigations lead by competent national authorities. The only recent development regarding Nord Stream of which his delegation is aware is a new round of lurid accusations by the Russian Federation-controlled media. The basis for those accusations is an article by an American journalist, which cites only a single secret source, and which has been comprehensively debunked by others online, he added. The likely real reason for the Russian Federation’s urgency today is a desperate desire to shift attention away from the massive casualties suffered by the Russian Federation’s military and from the devastation it has wrought on the people of Ukraine, he said.
MOHAMED ISSA ABUSHAHAB (United Arab Emirates) said acts of sabotage against energy infrastructure, such as the explosions that damaged the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea last September, are unacceptable. They pose a significant threat to international security, stability and prosperity, he said, adding that the 2022 explosions had devastating consequences for the planet, leading to the worst methane gas leak ever recorded. “As we work together to prevent and address climate change, such events only make our collective efforts more difficult,” he stressed, expressing support for a serious investigation into the September 2022 events alongside efforts to reduce tensions. “It is important that investigations are grounded in science and facts, not politics and posturing,” he added, noting that the gravity of the situation demands a serious and sober approach and requires holding those responsible accountable. All concerned parties should refrain from resorting to unilateral measures or escalatory actions, he added, emphasizing that the world can ill afford such steps against the backdrop of its present regional and international uncertainty.
HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana) welcomed the recent joint update by Denmark, Germany and Sweden, noting that the ongoing investigative processes should also endeavour to keep the Russian Federation authorities and operators informed and their cooperation sought as necessary. Critical infrastructure especially of a transnational kind should be protected and kept safe from harm, he underscored, voicing concern about greenhouse gas emissions - which have non-localized consequences. He urged cooperation among all relevant actors to establish the facts and appropriate remedial action, including ensuring accountability. While investigations are ongoing, all parties concerned must exercise restraint, he said, cautioning against unilateral actions that could be detrimental to peace.
ANDREA BARBARA BAUMANN-BRESOLIN (Switzerland), recalling the September 2022 Council meeting on the present topic as well as the letter sent to the Council by Sweden and Denmark on 29 September, said all available information indicates that the damages to the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines, which resulted in worrying gas leaks, were acts of sabotage. She condemned any attack on critical infrastructure, such as energy infrastructure, and its consequences for people, the economy and the environment. It is important to stick to the facts and to support any credible effort to shed light on the September incident, she said, spotlighting the joint letter submitted today by Germany, Denmark and Sweden regarding the ongoing investigations.
TAMAURA SHU (Japan) expressed deep concern about the September 2022 Nord Stream pipelines incidents, as well as their potential long-term damage and risk to the marine environment and climate. Noting that Japan is closely monitoring the progress of the investigation, he said the incident “reminds us once again” of the importance of ensuring the safety of energy infrastructure. Any targeting of such infrastructure and facilities must be avoided, he said, strongly condemning any such violence. Urging all those involved to exercise restraint and refrain from engaging in any activity that could disrupt peace and stability, he expressed his hope that the results of the ongoing efforts of investigation by Sweden and Denmark will clarify the cause, and that the Council will be able to discuss the issue on the ground based on the results of the investigation.
JOHN KELLEY (United States) said today’s meeting is a blatant attempt by the Russian Federation to distract from the impact of its illegal and full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which will be deliberated on by the General Assembly later this week. This is not the first time that Moscow has used its seat on the Council to amplify conspiracy theories from the Internet, he pointed out, stressing that accusations that the United States was involved in the act of sabotage on the Nord Stream pipelines are false. Competent authorities in Denmark, Germany and Sweden are investigating those incidents in a comprehensive, transparent and impartial manner, he added, pointing out that resources for United Nations investigations should be reserved for cases when States are unwilling or unable to investigate genuinely. The Russian Federation’s proposed draft resolution clearly implicates the United States and mischaracterizes statements by United States officials, he said, noting that it does not seek an impartial investigation but seeks to prejudice ongoing ones toward a predetermined conclusion of its choosing.
ARIAN SPASSE (Albania) said the September attacks on the Nord Stream pipeline were unacceptable and welcomed the prompt response and investigations that were initiated to determine the perpetrators. That investigation is under way and his delegation looks forward to its conclusion. Against that backdrop, there is no need for a parallel investigation to overlap with the current one. No new facts were presented at today’s meeting, just assumptions. Stressing that the Council is not a depository for conspiracy theories, he said the timing of the request for today’s meeting is no coincidence. It aims to divert the attention from the events scheduled to mark the first anniversary of the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine. Emphasizing that the Russian Federation is trying to misuse the Council, he said there is no need for any resolution on this issue.
RONALDO COSTA FILHO (Brazil) pointed to a press article that reported serious allegations about September’s incidents regarding the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines, which motivated today’s meeting. It is widely known that there are claims that these incidents were acts of sabotage, he said, noting that any response should be based on the results of impartial investigations. The seriousness of the allegations and the accusation of involvement of State actors must be given due consideration by the Council, he said, calling for greater transparency in the dissemination of established facts and restraint in the propagation of unproven interpretations. He further emphasized that harmful consequences of the damage to the Nord Stream pipelines for the environment need to be assessed by proper international bodies.
ISIS MARIE DORIANE JARAUD-DARNAULT (France) said the explosions targeting the Nord Stream pipeline were the result of a deliberate act. Investigations have been carried out and there is no reason to doubt them, she stressed, calling instead for them to be brought to a conclusion. However, there is every reason to doubt the intervention of the Russian Federation at this point, five months after the leaks. Moscow is doing all it can do to divert the international community’s attention, as 24 February marks the one-year anniversary of its invasion of Ukraine.
ZHANG JUN (China) said it is increasingly clear that the damage to the Nord Stream pipelines was a deliberate human act. Voicing support for expediting the investigation, he said the United Nations can play an active role by ensuring the security of transboundary infrastructure, among other things. He welcomed the draft resolution tabled by the Russian Federation and underscored the importance of authorizing an investigation into the sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines. Voicing concern about recent details related to the incident, he said a simple statement of utterly false and complete fiction is not enough to answer the many concerns raised around the world. He expressed his delegation’s expectation that convincing explanations will be presented by relevant parties, while also drawing attention to a global security initiative concept paper released today by China.
DARREN CAMILLERI (Malta), Council President for February, speaking in his national capacity, said all available information indicates that the leaks caused by the damage to the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines were the result of a deliberate act. Any deliberate disruption of energy infrastructure is dangerous and irresponsible, particularly in the midst of a global energy crisis, he emphasized, calling the weaponization of energy and infrastructure “unacceptable”. The damage increased strain on global energy markets, impacting not only the countries which received energy through the Nord Stream pipeline, but also developing countries. Against that backdrop, he underlined his country’s solidarity with Denmark, Sweden and Germany and voiced its strong support for the ongoing investigations aimed at establishing the full truth behind the leaks.