Did Biden Order an Attack on Russia's Nord Stream Pipelines? What We Know

The White House on Wednesday pushed back against a report that the United States was responsible for explosions last year on Russia's Nord Stream gas pipelines.

The report—"How America Took Out the Nord Stream Pipeline"—was written by Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh and published on his Substack. In his post, Hersh detailed the series of explosions that occurred in September on the pipelines designed to carry Russian gas to Germany under the Baltic Sea.

According to Hersh, President Joe Biden ordered specialized U.S. Navy divers to take out the pipelines after Washington's national security community debated over the plan for nine months.

The White House disputed the story soon after Hersh posted it on Wednesday, calling it "utterly false." Russia, however, has called on the U.S. to give a more detailed explanation.

Nord Stream gas leak and Joe Biden
The main image shows gas emanating from a leak in the Nord Stream gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea on September 28, 2022. The smaller image shows President Joe Biden speaking during the Democratic National Committee winter meeting on February 3 in Philadelphia. The White House on Wednesday denied a report that Biden authorized an attack on the Nord Stream pipelines. Photos by Swedish Coast Guard/Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

What Are the Nord Stream Pipelines?

The pipelines are owned and operated by Nord Stream AG, a consortium whose majority shareholder is the Russian state-owned energy firm Gazprom.

Both Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 run from northwestern Russia under the Baltic Sea to Lubmin, Germany. Nord Stream 1 went into service in 2011, whereas Nord Stream 2 was completed in 2021 but has never gone into operation.

What Happened to the Pipelines?

On September 26, 2022, the pipelines were targeted by a series of underwater bombings which caused large gas leaks.

At the time, the pipelines were not operating due to ongoing disputes between Russia and the European Union that started over Russia's war in Ukraine.

The blasts occurred in the economic zones of Sweden and Denmark, and leaders from both countries later stated that the explosions appeared to have happened as a result of a deliberate attack. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and European officials have also called the explosions an act of espionage, but they have not said who is responsible.

Former President Donald Trump and Biden were both outspoken in their opposition to the construction of the Nord Stream 2, which they felt would give Russian President Vladimir Putin too much economic power.

While some have speculated before that the United States could have been behind the attack, others have theorized that Russia sabotaged its own pipelines.

What Did Seymour Hersh Say Happened?

The lauded journalist cited an unnamed source in his story who Hersh said had "direct knowledge of the operational planning" of the alleged U.S. attack on the pipeline.

Hersh wrote that an interagency group conducted the planning to the highly classified mission, which allegedly resulted in "skilled deep-water divers" attaching explosives to the pipelines in June before the bombs were detonated three months later.

As for why Biden gave the green light for the mission, Hersh said the president viewed "the pipelines as a vehicle for Vladimir Putin to weaponize natural gas for his political and territorial ambitions."

What Does Russia Say?

Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has called on the White House to address the "facts" presented by Hersh.

In a post written on her Telegram channel, Zakharova summarized key points from Hersh's article before pointing a finger at the U.S.

"We have repeatedly voiced Russia's position on the involvement of the United States and NATO," Zakharova wrote, according to an English translation. "The White House must now comment on all these facts."

What Does the White House Say?

"This is utterly false and complete fiction," White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said, according to Reuters.

The news outlet also wrote that spokespeople for the CIA and the U.S. Department of State denied Hersh's account.

Newsweek reached out to Hersh through his book publisher for comment.