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Russian ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said Moscow was presenting a request for an independent investigation in light of doubts about the integrity and transparency of Denmark, Germany and Sweden in their ongoing inquiries.

There was “proof that explosives had been planted” near the pipeline during a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) exercise in the summer of 2022, he said, referring to a recent United States news report by reporter Seymour Hersh claiming Washington was involved. [...]

At the same time, the UN “is not in a position to verify or confirm any of the claims relating to these incidents, and we await the findings of ongoing national investigations,” , UN Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo explained. She noted that preliminary results of the ongoing inquiries show “extensive damage”, signs of “gross sabotage” and “foreign items” seized at the site.

While some Council members supported the launch of a UN-led inquiry, others emphasized that ongoing inquiries are enough, with many raising grave concerns about the ecological impact of the incidents. Many agreed that efforts should focus on de-escalating tensions in the region.

https://news.un.org/en/story/2023/02/1133752

I was reading this story and it seems some members of the Security Council believe that a UN-led inquiry would be a good thing and that the ongoing inquiries are not enough to address the issue of the Nord Stream incident, why is that? Is there any advantage that a UN-led inquiry would bring to this affair?

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5 Answers 5

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Given the way it was phrased/proposed, it was rather clearly a proposal that was meant to be rejected, but made in order to generate news like this. (Would Russia accept a UN investigation about Bucha? The answer is no. Or about the Olenivka prison fire/explosion? No again. Likewise China is supportive of this Russian proposal, but does it want anything in Xinjiang investigated by the UN? Again, no.)

So that would be the main advantage of the proposal. On the snowball chance [in hell] that it would be adopted like that, it would have advantages [for Russia/China] of repeating the same accusations at multiple sessions etc. And if the Western countries were foolish/pressured enough to accept, they'd have expose their own investigative methods about submarine events in order to cooperate, their armed forces precise movements, etc.

The Russian proposal roughly coincided (within a few days) with the one-year anniversary of their invasion. That, of course, made it even more easy by the West to dismiss it as a distraction tactic.

Regarding that "proof" see https://skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/54372/did-the-cia-blow-up-the-nordstream-1-pipeline-using-baltops-22-as-cover

BTW, I'm not sure UN has ever investigated explosions. A quick search found that there were calls for an UN investigations into the 2020 Beirut explosion, but I'm not sure that went anywhere either, even though no big country seems to have a reason to block that.

OTOH, in the 1970s, the UN secretary general was granted [standing] extraordinary powers to investigate chemical attacks (seemingly granted around/after the Vietnam war), authority which was [much] later used in Syria. But more recently [2020], Russia tried to have that authority put back under UNSC aegis, which Western countries allege was so proposed in order for Russia to control/veto the outcomes of such investigations.


By the way, the Russians or at least the Russia-related companies did conduct their on-site investigation[s]. When some Western journalists went to look at the site themselves, they could also see a (larger) Russian ship (the Nefrit) in the area. And it had been there probably for two weeks prior, given when it was first spotted.

At least for Nord Seam 1, Nordstream AG which is 51% owned by a subsidiary of Gazprom, did put out the result of their on investigation, which was roughly limited to observing the "technogenic" nature of the seabed craters and their dimensions/locations, and the spread of fragments around those.

So the issue is not so much agreeing what happened but "who'd done it". And proving the latter requires access to mountains of data that countries do not typically turn over to the UN. So, the "advantage" of agreeing to that in this case would be setting the standard/precedent that Germany, Denmark, and Sweden are presumed more corrupt and/or incompetent than Lebanon in such matters.

Speaking of Lebanon, there was a UNSC resolution (1757) [over a decade ago] that did authorize an international "Special Tribunal for Lebanon" to look into the death of PM Rafiq Hariri, who died in a blast. After over a decade of investigating, the Tribunal did try some Hezbollah members in absentia, because the latter would not cooperate. And the Tribunal convicted one person, who is still at large (Hezbollah did not surrender any of the suspects). The Tribunal also failed to connect that operative with explicit orders from any higher-level players. So that's probably the most you could expect an UN investigation to pull off in a case like this.

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  • I haven't exactly followed all the details on the chemical stuff, but it looks like the OPCW was granted separate [UN] mandate to conduct [parallel?] investigation, and Russia was able to eventually block that at the UNSC theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/24/… Mar 5, 2023 at 8:46
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    I think the examples in first paragraph aren't needed.
    – whoisit
    Mar 5, 2023 at 18:03
  • @whoisit, if we want to virtue signal and conveniently forget a litany of other crimes by the usual suspects, yes, they are needed.
    – brasofilo
    Mar 7, 2023 at 0:47
  • @brasofilo No, not every alleged crime is required to be mentined everywhere. Here it is only fulfilling the purpose of whataboutery, and not needed.
    – whoisit
    Mar 7, 2023 at 5:57
  • Now that the west itself claiming that Ukraine blew up the pipeline, what is your opinion that a more neutral party - like the UN - should have been investigating this whole mess?
    – sfxedit
    Jun 11, 2023 at 4:30
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There is a propaganda strategy known as firehose of falsehood, or sometimes less delicately as 'bullshitting.' Basically, if you don't have good arguments on your side, throw out so many arguments that the other side can't keep up debunking them all. The goal is to let the audience conclude that it is all complicated, unclear, and not proven, and make them stop listening to both sides in disgust.

There is no reasonable doubt that Russia has started a war of aggression. Russia has proclaimed the annexiation of parts of Ukraine. Since they cannot win a debate on these issues, they want a forum to debate other issues. And some UNSC members have refrained from calling out Russia because they want Russia as a geopolitical counterweight to 'the West.'

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    This sounds like an answer to another question.
    – Alexei
    Mar 5, 2023 at 8:44
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    @Alexei, I explained why the investigation would be an advantage to Russian public diplomacy/propaganda and possibly also to others (like China) who want to counter the 'Western' assumption that 'the West' gets to set the international rules.
    – o.m.
    Mar 5, 2023 at 10:04
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    @o.m. Yes, but the question seems to focus on "some Council members supported the launch of an UN-led inquiry" rather than why it is in Russia's interests for the UN to lead such an investigation.
    – Alexei
    Mar 5, 2023 at 13:35
  • @Alexei, see the geopolitics argument in my answer. I expect that China is privately furious with Russia, but publicly they back them against the US.
    – o.m.
    Mar 5, 2023 at 14:51
  • Now that the west is claiming that Ukraine blew up the pipeline, what is your opinion that a more neutral party - like the UN - should investigate the whole mess?
    – sfxedit
    Jun 11, 2023 at 4:29
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It will be no advantage. There are not enough pieces of evidence. Something found on the bottom of the sea could be seen as evidence, or some leaked top secret documents with a proven origin. As far as I am aware, there is no evidence of this kind sufficient to identify the perpetrator. It is easy to draft a narrative of how any part could have been done, and also find motivation.

The Seymour Hersh report is a nice and extremely detailed story of how this could possibly be done. You can read it here. But there is no real evidence behind it and some details have been found to be impossible. Many different stories like this could be written like using maintenance robots that exist and are capable of travelling inside the pipes. Vassily Nebenzia even talks about "foreign objects found" as if they picked an unexploded bomb right from the pipe, stamped with the Ukrainian trident. Why is this so secret and vague? If you have evidence, provide it.

Without real evidence, the "investigation" can only be used as propaganda. Likely lots of claims will be raised demanding evidence against them, so bullshitting. This does not work in the context of the law but only psychologically.

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There are a few competing theories about the Nord Stream Sabotage - that it has happened by accident, done by Russia or done by the US.

Current investigations are carried out by US, Russia or their allies (even Sweden has become one now) - hence they cannot be impartial.

If actually carried out impartially, the investigation will reveal who are the actual sabotagers. A UN led inquiry has the possibility of being impartial unlike any other.

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    I agree until "hence the demand". The demand, as phrased, was for UN to investigate the "proof" that the US did it etc. Besides, UN needs to find people who are both expert enough and independent enough, which in this case may be a bit hard to find (albeit not impossible). Underwater sabotage doesn't happen all the time. Mar 5, 2023 at 18:44
  • With the exception of cables being snagged apparently, that seems to happen pretty often (although it seems more accidental than otherwise) highnorthnews.com/en/… Mar 5, 2023 at 19:39
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    It's quite the assumption that any investigation will reveal the actual perpetrator. It may well simply end with a "We don't know."
    – Obie 2.0
    Mar 5, 2023 at 19:52
  • Even a biased investigation can come to a correct and truthful conclusion. Such a conclusion may meet challenges in being accepted if it is favorable to those conducting the investigation, and that's a good reason to seek impartiality, but it does not mean that we necessarily should not have or should automatically reject the conclusions of investigations by parties with an interest in the result. Mar 7, 2023 at 21:56
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Seymour Hersh is a respected USA journalist with a track record for exposing cover ups at the highest levels of USA government.

To have an international democratic body ratify his findings will be of obvious importance in establishing what underhand influence, if any, the USA has had over directing the course of the war.

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    Hersh has had some big stories but he also has a track record of endorsing debunked conspiracy theories with little to no evidence. He's written that the Bin Laden raid was faked and that he was not responsible for 9/11, stoked rumors about the Seth Rich murder, exonerated Russia for the Skripal poisoning and Assad for the use of chemical weapons. Without another journalist or serious publication to back up his work, it's hard to take him seriously.
    – Connor
    Mar 6, 2023 at 12:41
  • You should read some of the criticism of the particular Hersh piece. It is sourced from a single unnamed informant (supposing that Hersh is to be believed), and it makes multiple inconsistent, impossible, and / or easily falsifiable claims. Overall, it simply is not credible. And Russia surely realizes this, which should color our understanding of the political maneuvering in question. Mar 7, 2023 at 22:02

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