Johannesburg – Thomas Reed is no ordinary mortal. He is the erstwhile United States Special Assistant for National Security Affairs and during his tenure, also served as a US National Security Council member.
He wrote in his memoirs published in a 2004 autobiography titled “At the Abyss”, how they planned and eventually sabotaged the Soviet gas pipeline known as the Urengoy-Surgut-Chelyabinsk. The pipeline carried natural gas from the south and west of Soviet Russia towards Ukraine, where it could be tanked for onward delivery to Europe.
On July 19, 1981, Francois Mitterrand, the president of France at the time, arrived in Ottawa, Canada for the Economic Summit with a burning issue weighing heavy on his mind. He wanted to unburden to US president Ronald Reagan, the intelligence vault fortuitously chanced upon by the French Intelligence.
A Soviet double agent named Vladimir Vetrov had 4 000 documents and photographs brought with him across the Iron Curtain as he escaped from Moscow, ostensibly for fear of detection, an intelligence bonanza famously dubbed “The Farewell Dossier”. In it among others, were details relating to the Urengoy gas pipeline, arguably the most significant such pipeline in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics at the time.
Ronald Reagan was so pleased with this encounter that he was effusive in his praise of its deliberations and outcomes, noting that the meeting “was worth its weight in gold”.
Reed’s account is corroborated by Richard Allen, another seminal veteran of the dark arts. On a widely viewed YouTube video, he lent to the interview his candid recollection of the events, his role in it as well as the carefully scripted rhythm of the grandest sabotage ever conceived and executed.
For the purpose, the Americans brought in Gus Weiss, the National Security Council member and Nation Intelligence Association Technology Advisor. According to the1996 CIA Journals: Intelligence by Weiss, he contrived the most audacious sabotage scheme in the annals of history of that organization. First, he counselled and subsequently prevailed over his peers that the objection to the purchase of pipeline technology by the Soviet Union from a Canadian company be dropped.
Instead he proposed to add a virus in the software controlling the pipeline, turbines and valves. It was programmed to go haywire to reset pump speeds and valve settings thereby producing pressures far beyond those acceptable to the joints and wells.
The objective was to disrupt USSR gas infrastructure and its hard currency earnings. Weiss then presented his device to William Casey, the CIA Director. The scheme was “goober-pea simple”. The technology the Soviets wanted would be given to them after some modifications.
Computers and pipeline turbines would weave through quality control and enter service. But then for no apparent reason, stop, start, fail and ultimately fizzle. It was officially termed The Deception Program. The objective was the Soviet gas pipeline explosion. Reagan was elated about the idea. In the summer of 1982, the Urengoy-Surgut-Chelyabinsk gas pipeline was rocked by a massive explosion which resulted in the most monumental non-nuclear explosion and fire ever seen from space.
Fast-forward to September 2022. Karl Marx once noted that history repeats itself, first as a tragedy and second as a farce. Leading up to the Russian Special Military Operation in Eastern Ukraine, the United States has been unequivocal in its resolve that if Russia would send troops into Ukraine, the Nordstream II gas pipeline would somehow be halted, or as US President Joe Biden said on February 7 this year, “there will be no longer Nordstream II. We will bring it to an end.” When pressed for more detail, he wryly declared “I promise you, we will be able to do it”. This sentiment was echoed by Victoria Nuland when she said “one way or another, Nordstream II will not move forward”.
On or around September 21, German operators of the Nordstream pipelines noticed a rapid pressure decline on both the Nordstream 1 and 2 gas pipelines. Notwithstanding the fact that Nordstream II had not been commissioned to commence operations, the linefill gas had already been substantially filled on that section of the delivery infrastructure. On closer inspection, supported by subsea video footage, such decline was attributable to a deliberate act of sabotage.
The following day, however, Norway, Denmark and Poland were ecstatic as they commissioned their new Baltic gas pipeline, truly unconcerned that the westernmost explosion of the four pipelines of both Nordstream 1 and 2 happened in the vicinity where they intersect theirs. The environmental damage was so catastrophic that the smell of gas was perceptible from outer space.
Just the same way as the prominent Polish politician Radek Sikorski MEP graciously thanked the USA in a tweet immediately after the sabotage was reported, Robert Allen in his reminiscing, proudly and remorselessly concluded about the Urengoy gas pipeline tragedy…
“It was a nice explosion…”!
Ambassador Bheki Gila is a Barrister-at-Law. The views expressed here are his own.