Goodbye to Ukraine? US prepares public for defeat

Mar 21, 2023
Nord Stream leak on map, sites of explosions of natural gas pipelines.

The New York Times report of 8th March that ‘Intelligence Suggests Pro-Ukrainian Group Sabotaged Pipelines, U.S. Officials Say’ elicited two sets of responses.

The mainstream US media dutifully replicated the story without curiosity or challenge, carefully sidestepping questions of plausibility or context, and often, as with the Washington Post, managing to avoid mentioning the name of Seymour Hersh, whose article of 8 February ‘How America Took Out The Nord Stream Pipeline’ they had spent a month trying to ignore. The alternative media, by contrast, jumped on the question of plausibility, put the Seymour Hersh article up front and saw this ‘revelation’ as a transparent attempt at diversion. They were broadly correct in that but they left out a very intriguing question, ‘why Ukraine?’.

The Nord Stream pipelines, build to transport gas from Russia to Germany had been blown up 26 September 2022, and there was immediate and unanimous agreement from all quarters that it was sabotage. The question was the classic murder mystery one, who dun it? The problem for the Western media was that by the standard criteria of means, motive and opportunity by far the leading contender was the United States. And the main immediate loser was Russia, which lost an expensive pipeline, a lot of valuable gas and its huge German market. The media, of course, is used to surmounting such challenges. The New York Times pointed the finger at Russia it its headline – Sabotaged Pipelines and a Mystery: Who Did It? (Was It Russia?) – but covered itself in the subheading by admitting there was ‘little evidence’. The Washington Post attempted to gain creditability by focussing on third parties – European leaders blame Russian ‘sabotage’ after Nord Stream explosions. President Biden had promised he would stop Nord Stream 2 and had forced Scholz to block its implementation. The sabotage made sure that Scholz could not change his mind. Germany was consigned to long term economic decline. All this was clear to anyone whose salary did not depend on denying it, but what remained unclear, or in dispute, was the mechanism of the sabotage and who the accomplices might have been. Seymour Hersh probably solved that puzzle; it was an American operation with help from the Norwegians, who became Germany’s largest gas supplier and made $100billion out of the operation. Hersh had been a thorn in the side of the US government since his exposure of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam in 1972, and he was drawing blood again.

The US responded to the Hersh article by attempting to dismiss it and by giving it very little coverage in the media. Then came the US intelligence press release through the New York Times. The NYT did not get the story through investigative reporting in the Hersh manner, nor through a whistle-blower but from a handout from officials. That meant it was a considered and calculated information operation, coming over five months after the sabotage and a month after Hersh. Plenty of time to prepare.

The US officials who were the source of the NYT article claimed that they were ‘reviewing’ new evidence and that apparently referred to an investigation ostensibly carried out by German media, led by Die Zeit. It is unclear whether US intelligence was responding to the German narrative or if the operation was coordinated. Given that Germany is very much a junior partner it is unlikely that the story would have surfaced unless the Americans agreed; the London Times claimed that US/NATO had suppressed Scandinavian intelligence accusing an Ukrainian oligarch since a week after the sabotage. Whatever the details, the new sabotage allegations can be best analysed now as a US-led coordinated operation, and that brings us back to the question of ‘why Ukraine?’.

The NYT article discreetly identified the consequences of ‘Ukrainisation’:

Any suggestion of Ukrainian involvement, whether direct or indirect, could upset the delicate relationship between Ukraine and Germany, souring support among a German public that has swallowed high energy prices in the name of solidarity.

Any findings that put blame on Kyiv or Ukrainian proxies could prompt a backlash in Europe and make it harder for the West to maintain a united front in support of Ukraine.

It has been argued very plausibly that the German story of a handful of ‘pro-Ukrainian’ sympathisers, perhaps Russians (a nice touch) doing what had previously been authoritatively considered only possible by state-level professionals is so implausible as to be probably a complete fabrication. Examples include Scott Ritter, Moon of Alabama and Jeremy Scahill. If it is a work of fiction, why cast Ukrainians as the culprits, why not stick with the Russians, or perhaps the North Koreans for a touch of the exotic? And if Ukrainians were up to something why not keep schtum, why let the cat out of the bag now?

One answer suggests itself: people at senior, but probably not top, level have decided that it is necessary to wean the public away from the Ukraine myth and prepare the ground for a deal. For the Germans that would be mainly to rescue the country from economic devastation and social fragmentation and for the Americans to clear the ground for the war against China. This interpretation is consistent with the possible disintegration of the Ukrainian military and the inability of the West to produce sufficient munitions.

An increasing number of stories are seeping into the media about the huge losses Kyiv is suffering and the concern that, as former US Colonel Alex Vershinin puts it, ‘Ukraine might be running out of men’. Vershinin is also the author of a seminal paper on industrial warfare, the huge demand for weapons and ammunition that the West can no longer satisfy. The West cannot provide enough for a proxy war in Ukraine let alone direct war with Russia, or China, or both.

Time for a dial back in Ukraine?

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