US Military Helicopters Were Spotted Over Nord Stream 1 and 2 Prior to Recent Explosions; CIA Told Berlin There’d Be Attack on the Pipelines Weeks Prior to Their Being Damaged

New reports from Arab independent media outlet Al Mayadeen, as well as German weekly news magazine Der Spiegel, say US military helicopters flew over Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 on multiple days before the recent pipeline explosions, and that the CIA warned the German government of the attacks “weeks before” they happened.

Reports coming out from Arab independent media outlet Al Mayadeen as well as German weekly news magazine Der Spiegel say US military helicopters flew over Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 on multiple days before a series explosions left three leaks in the pair of offshore natural gas pipelines that run under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany. The reports also say that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) warned the German government “weeks before” the explosions that there would be attacks on the pipelines.

Image: Flightradar24

“Earlier this month, a US Navy Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk helicopter spent hours loitering over the location of the damaged natural gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea near Bornholm for several days in a row, September 1, 2, and 3, in particular,” Al Mayadeen reports. The independent outlet says that Flightradar24—a Swedish internet-based service that shows real-time aircraft flight tracking information on a map—recorded those helicopter flights over the pipelines, as well as flights by the same type of helicopter on September 10, 19, 22, 23, 25, and 26.

“Reportedly, helicopters that made sorties on the night of September 22-23 and 25-26 [had] especially confusing tracks,” Al Mayadeen says. The helicopters stayed over the pipeline explosion sites “for hours” on the nights of September 22 and September 25 in particular.

Image: Flightradar24

Although Flightradar24 was unable to provide stock images of the helicopters or even helicopter icons—both of which are usually included in reports from the flight tracker—the aircrafts’ 24-bit ICAO codes (i.e. the four-letter codes designating the locations from which the aircraft flight operations took place) included descriptions that made it possible to establish the type of helicopters flying over the pipelines: US military Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawks. According to Lockheed Martin, the maker of the military helicopters, the MH-60R Seahawk “is the world’s most advanced maritime helicopter.” The American arms, defense, and aerospace corporation says the helicopters are “Operational and deployed today with the U.S. Navy as the primary anti-submarine warfare anti-surface weapon system for open ocean and littoral zones” and are “the most capable naval helicopter[s] available today designed to operate from frigates, destroyers, cruisers and aircraft carriers.”

According to the Al Mayadeen report a single MH-60R Seahawk “spent hours loitering over the location of the damaged natural gas pipelines” on the first, second, and third of the month. On the second, Al Mayadeen says that “almost in parallel with their US counterpart” a Royal Netherlands Navy NH9 helicoptera medium-sized, twin-engine, multi-role military helicopter—was flying in the vicinity of Bornholm Island—a Danish island in the Baltic Sea, to the east of the rest of Denmark—and “is expected to have been observing the Americans’ activity.”

Along with reports of the US military helicopters hovering over Nord Stream 1 and 2 on the mentioned dates, Der Spiegel also says the CIA warned the German government weeks prior to September 27 that there would be attacks on the pipelines.

“An informed source told the German newspaper that Berlin had been informed by the CIA a few weeks ago that there would be attacks on the key pipelines supplying a huge portion of Europe’s energy from Russia,” Al Mayadeen reports. (The original Der Spiegel article is behind a paywall.) “The media outlet cited several unnamed individuals as confirming that the CIA tipped the German government about the incident that was yet to take place.”

A spokesperson for the German government told Der Spiegel “As a matter of principle, we do not take a public position on matters relating to any intelligence findings or activities of the intelligence services.”

On September 27 the Danish Armed Forces reported that Nord Stream 1 had two leaks northeast of Bornholm and Nord Stream 2 had one leak south of Dueodde (a beach in Denmark on Bornholm’s southernmost tip). The leaks were discovered by the Danish Defense F-16 interceptor response unit.

“There have been three incidents of… leakage from gas pipes: one from the Nord Stream 2 and two from the Nord Stream 1, and it’s a very rare thing that it would happen—such a leakage,” Anders Puck Nielsen of the Royal Danish Defense College said in an Associated Press report posted to YouTube on September 27 (immediately above). “And the fact that we have three of them in 24 hours that’s extremely unusual. So it’s definitely something that begs the question is this actually sabotage or some kind of hybrid warfare that we are witnessing here?”

“I think if we look at who would actually benefit from the disturbances, more chaos on the gas market in Europe, I think there’s basically only one actor that benefits right now from more uncertainty and that’s Russia,” Puck Nielsen added in his interview with the Associated Press.

Along with Puck Nielsen, many other officials have pegged the explosions and subsequent leaks as “sabotage.” European Union Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, for example, referred to the explosions and leaks as a “sabotage action” in a Twitter post.

“The alleged acts of sabotage on the [Nord Stream] pipelines must be cleared up quickly and comprehensively, even if this becomes difficult in the depths of the sea and as the gas continues to escape,” Germany’s Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser wrote in her own tweet. “The authorities in Denmark and Sweden are investigating and we are in close contact,” Faeser added.

Although Puck Nielsen—as well as many other public figures and media outlets—are speculating Russia is behind the possible act of sabotage, some are pointing to remarks made by both US President Joe Biden and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland prior to the explosions, which seemed to indicate veiled threats against Russia that would’ve manifested in this way.

“If Germany… if, uh, Russia invades, uh, if Russia invades, uh, that means tanks or troops crossing the, uh, the, the border of Ukraine. Again then uh, there will be uh, we, there will be no longer a Nord Stream 2. We will bring an end to it,” President Biden told a reporter during a joint news conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on February 7 (immediately above). When the reporter asked “How will you do that? Exactly. Since the project and control of the project is within Germany’s control?” Biden responded “We will, uh, I promise you we’ll be able to do it.” (Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.)

On January 27 of this year Nuland said during a press conference that “If Russia invades Ukraine, one way or another, Nord Stream 2 will not move forward.”

If the CIA was indeed behind the attack on Nord Stream 1 and 2, it would not count as the first time the intelligence agency attacked pipelines belonging to a foreign nation. In 2004 Der Standard, an Austrian daily newspaper published in Vienna, reported the CIA had caused “a massive pipeline explosion in what was then the Soviet Union in the 1980s.” Paraphrasing a Washington Post article Der Standard reported that a former member of the US Air Force said the intelligence agency leaked software to the Soviet Union during the Cold War “that was intended to disrupt the country’s gas supply.” A Soviet Union trans-Siberian pipeline, which was set to produce an approximated $8 billion in fuel revenue annually for the USSR, was severely damaged in a massive explosion in 1982. Other outlets, however, have reported the CIA was not behind the explosion.

Feature image: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Chris Bartlett

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