China and Brazil Back Russian Request for International Probe Into Pipeline Sabotage, But Effort Fails
Russian U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia in the U.N. Security Council chamber. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images)
(CNSNews.com) – A Russia-led request for a U.N.-mandated international investigation into the sabotage of the Nord Stream gas pipelines last September fell flat on Monday, when its resolution on the issue won just three votes in the U.N. Security Council.
After China and Brazil joined Russia in voting for the resolution, all 12 remaining council members, depriving Russia of the nine votes needed for the measure to pass.
Against the backdrop of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the Moscow-West standoff, the explosions that damaged the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines carrying Russian gas to Germany under the Baltic Sea have fueled acrimonious debate.
Reflecting the politicized nature of the controversy, Russia’s draft resolution was co-sponsored by U.N. member-states largely hostile to the U.S. – Belarus, China, Eritrea, North Korea, Nicaragua, and the Assad and Maduro regimes.
Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said Russia wants the U.N. secretary-general to establish an “international independent commission to conduct a comprehensive, transparent and impartial investigation” into what happened.
The U.S. and others say the outcome of national investigations underway into the explosions, carried out by Danish, Swedish, and German authorities, should be awaited.
The three were among those most directly impacted by the incident, which occurred where the pipeline to Germany runs through the exclusive economic zones of Sweden and Denmark. Although also clearly an affected party, Russia to its chagrin was not invited to take part.
Nebenzia suggested that the three investigations were designed to ensure the perpetrators were never identified.
“These investigations [by the Danes, Swedes, and Germans] could go on for years in the same inefficient and untransparent manner. Precious time is being wasted,” he said.
“There are increasing suspicions that within these investigations efforts are being made not to shed light on what happened with the acts of sabotage, but rather to hide evidence and to clean up the crime scene.”
Russia’s insinuations that Western powers blew up the pipelines were given new impetus after the American investigative journalist Seymour Hersh published a detailed but anonymously-sourced article in February claiming that the U.S. and Norwegian navies carried out the mission, on President Biden’s orders. The Biden administration dismissed the claims as “complete fiction.”
A subsequent New York Times report said U.S. intelligence agencies were examining the prospect that a “pro-Ukrainian group” was responsible for the attack, with neither the Ukrainian government nor U.S. or British nationals involved.
Russian government officials seized on and amplified the Hersh claims, but discounted those in the Times report.
During Monday’s meeting, U.S. Ambassador Robert Wood scolded Russia for having “blamed the United States for carrying out these attacks.”
“With those comments, it was very clear that Russia was not interested in an impartial investigation,” he said. “It had already decided who the guilty culprit was. Russia was simply playing politics.”
Nebenzia said in reply he did not recall Russian officials “specifically” blaming the U.S., but pointed again to the claims in Hersh’s article.
“I don’t read Seymour Hersh’s articles,” Wood said in response. “And frankly, I don’t base – the United States doesn’t base its policies or respond simply to charges by an individual journalist.”
Wood repeated that claims of U.S. culpability were “just flat-out wrong, plain and simple.”
He also called into question Russia’s claims to be concerned about protecting critical infrastructure.
“Just look at what it’s doing to Ukraine.”
Asking for the floor again, Nebenzia recommended that Wood read the Hersh article.
He also pointed to remarks by Biden, months before the pipeline explosions, to the effect that if Russia invades Ukraine, “we will bring an end to” the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. (Nebenzia, who was speaking through an interpreter, claimed Biden had said “we will destroy” the pipeline.)
U.S. officials say those and other statements by U.S. officials have been mischaracterized – that they did not imply that the U.S. would physically damage the pipeline. They say Biden was referring to German readiness to refuse to grant the formal authorization necessary for Nord Stream 2 to begin operating.
The construction of Nord Stream 2 had been completed months earlier and the pipe filled with gas awaiting the German green light to begin flowing. On the eve of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz suspended regulatory approval.
Explaining his country’s support for the Russian-drafted resolution, China’s representative Geng Shuang said an international investigation under the U.N. would ensure the “integrity of the chain of custody” and make the findings “more authoritative and widely acceptable.”
Brazilian Ambassador Ronaldo Costa Filho said Brazil’s vote in favor should not be interpreted as signaling mistrust in the ongoing investigations, but as “recognition of the importance of additional and more comprehensive efforts on the part of the United Nations.”
Putin: Nord Stream Sabotage Was Committed by State Actor; ‘Theoretically,’ US Had Much to Gain (Mar. 15, 2023)
Administration Denies Claims US Blew Up Nord Stream Pipelines; Kremlin Says Take Them Seriously (Feb. 10, 2023)
Biden: If Russia Invades Ukraine Again ‘There Will Be No Longer a Nord Stream 2’ (Feb. 7, 2022)