Seymour Hersh and the Nord Stream pipe that wasn’t blown up

Brian Whitaker
3 min readMar 31, 2023

On September 26 last year explosions ruptured three of the four Nord Stream pipelines laid under the Baltic Sea to deliver natural gas from Russia to Germany. While the fourth pipe remained undamaged, one of the others was found to have been bombed in two different places 76km apart — suggesting the saboteurs’ attack hadn’t gone entirely according to plan.

Nord Stream’s pipes ran under the sea in two pairs: the original pair known as NS1A and NS1B, plus a more recently-laid pair (NS2A and NS2B) which followed a different route from NS1 in some places. Conveniently for the saboteurs, though, there was a place 50–60km northeast of the Danish island of Bornholm where NS1 and NS2 converged, making it possible to attack all four pipes within a relatively small area.

This location also had the benefit of being just outside the range of Danish and Swedish coastal radar, and it wasn’t much frequented by shipping. Not surprisingly, it was the spot where three of the pipelines were blown up and where the fourth one, NS2B, was left intact.

According to Seymour Hersh, an American investigative journalist who blames the US for the attack on Nord Stream, all four pipelines had been primed with “shaped C4 charges” but one failed to detonate.

“One didn’t go off because it was in the water for months,” Hersh says in a
video interview posted on YouTube this week. “We don’t know why it failed but guess what country picked up the pipelines [sic]. The first to go there and recover the bomb that hadn’t gone off — a country called the United States of America. We were there within a day or two and picked it up and took it away so nobody else could see what kind of evidence there might be with the weapons used.”

In a highly controversial article last month Hersh claimed that American divers secretly planted the explosives last June with help from Norway, using a Nato exercise, BALTOPS22, as cover. According to Hersh, the explosives then lay on the seabed for three months until they were triggered by a remote signal on the orders of President Joe Biden.

A failed detonation could easily explain why only three of the four pipes exploded but it is not the only possibility. There are also reasons to doubt Hersh’s tale of a daring mission “a day or two” later to retrieve an unexploded bomb.

Firstly, it would not just be dangerous but extremely foolhardy. Three other pipes had been blown open in the same area and highly pressurised gas was gushing from them, causing severe turbulence in the water.

Secondly, it would have been very difficult to remove an unexploded bomb “a day or two” later without being noticed. Such was the danger to shipping from the escaping gas that Denmark and Sweden had declared exclusion zones of five nautical miles (9.2km) around the leaks and were guarding them to ensure no vessels came close.

In the light of that, it’s worth considering whether there might be some other reason why the fourth pipe remained undamaged — for example, if something had gone wrong when the explosives were being laid and the saboteurs left the area without planting their fourth bomb.

It’s a speculative idea but, if true, it could help to explain another puzzle about the Nord Stream attacks.

There was an additional explosion on 26 September that ruptured the NS2A pipe at another location southeast of Bornholm. The question this raises is why NS2A was attacked there as well as in the area further north. It starts to make sense, though, if the saboteurs — whether American or not — were trying to complete a task they had failed to finish in the north.

Ironically, though, if that was their intention it would mean they targeted the wrong pipe —thus blowing up NS2A in two places while twice allowing its sister pipe, NS2B, to escape unscathed.

CHECK HERE for regular updates about the Nord Stream affair

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Brian Whitaker

Former Middle East editor of the Guardian. Website: www.al-bab.com. Author of 'Arabs Without God'.