What's on deck: Previewing the topic of our next article and podcast episode
Maybe you’ve never heard of the Nord Stream pipelines, Vasili Mitrokhin, the 1999 apartment bombings in Moscow, or the various influencers we're about to talk about. This preview should help.
Hey everyone, as we said earlier this week, we’re going to keep expanding the offerings here at the Did Nothing Wrong newsletter and podcast. The first change you saw this week with the ‘People are Saying’ post about Elon Musk potentially, maybe following through with purchasing Twitter and what that might look like. We were happy with how that came out and plan on continuing those posts on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. We’re going to do a few more of the ‘People are Saying’ posts as free to read posts for everyone, but after that, we’re going to make those part of our paid content going forward. So if you’re not a paid subscriber yet, do consider changing your subscription status. We’re mulling over options for additional paid content in the future, and we’ll update you when we have a better idea of what that’s going to look like. Thank you to everyone who’s supporting us already!
Today we’re going to do something else new, and I’d like to explain the thinking behind this. As you know, our topics here at Did Nothing Wrong can vary somewhat, but we try to maintain a consistent theme. That is, start with a controversial and complex topic or public figure, explain what they’re doing, why they’re doing it and how that might benefit them in the future. We want your world to be less chaotic and to break ideas down into digestible narratives that make sense to you. A lot of times that means we’re taking in a lot of information to find the best explanations possible. Some articles are better explainers than others. Some sources are better than others. Some details are worth highlighting but aren’t getting enough attention elsewhere. That’s where we come in. What we’re realizing though is some of these topics might be fairly obscure to you, the humble reader. For instance, in our next long-form piece, maybe you’ve never heard of the Nord Stream pipelines, Vasili Mitrokhin, the 1999 apartment bombings in Moscow, or the various pro-Kremlin media or MAGA influencers that we’ll talk about in the piece. If that’s the case, we don’t blame you. We’d rather avoid paying attention to them too, but alas, we must.
So, here’s how we plan to help. We’re going to continue the long-form articles and related podcast episodes once a week, and we’ll try our best to get those out to you on the same day. Plan on both the next addition of those arriving in your inbox Friday (October 14th). They’re almost ready! In addition to those (assuming these are helpful and you guys want them), we’re going to provide some preview articles like the one you’ll find lower down in this post or email.
The purpose of these previews is providing you with context for our Did Nothing Wrong long-form articles and podcast episodes. So, if you’re unfamiliar with a Big Topic but want to know what we’re talking about, you can read these previews and be informed rather than trying to make sense of this brand new topic in this unique way all at once. These preview articles also give you a chance to see what sort of sources we’re using to write these and the credible information they provide. We also think it’s really important to highlight excellent work! We read a lot of really well-researched and thoughtful critiques, and we want to give those people the credit they’re due. Finally, if you’re already familiar with a topic we’re going to write about, these can offer a way to dive a little deeper or maybe just offer a quick refresh of the material with all the latest information.
We hope this is helpful, and as always we welcome you to email us at DidNothingWrongPod@protonmail.com.
Here’s today’s preview of tomorrow’s article.
Who destroyed the Nord Stream natural gas pipelines?
Now on to the sources with some commentary sprinkled in.
Here’s a solid recap of what happened to the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines and the explanations as to why from Voice of America.
Sweden’s domestic security agency said Thursday that its initial investigation into explosions last week along two Russian natural gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea "has strengthened the suspicions of serious sabotage" as the cause.
Neither of the underwater Russia-to-Germany Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines had been in use at the time of the blasts but for days sent methane from the pipes bubbling to the surface off the coasts of Sweden and Denmark.
Some Scandinavian officials have speculated that Russia detonated the pipeline explosions as a way to punish Western allies for their support of Ukrainian forces in fighting Moscow’s seven-month invasion and to cut the possible flow of fuel for the coming winter months.
But Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the West of attacking the pipelines, which the United States and its allies have vehemently denied. They have said that Russia had the most to gain by disrupting Europe's energy supplies.
The Swedish Security Service said its investigation confirmed that "detonations" caused extensive damage to the pipelines. The security agency said what happened in the Baltic Sea was "very serious," but did not release further details of its investigation.
If you haven't heard of the 1999 Moscow apartment bombings, you should consider reading this one in full.
At 5:03 on the morning of September 13, 1999—exactly nine years prior to my visit—6/3 Kashirskoye had been blasted apart by a bomb secreted in its basement; 121 of its residents had died while they slept. That explosion, coming nine days after the one in Buynaksk, was the third of what would be four apartment-building bombings in Russia over a twelve-day span that September, leaving some 300 citizens dead and the nation in panic; it was among the deadliest series of terrorist attacks in the world until September 11. Blaming the bombings on terrorists from Chechnya, Russia's newly appointed prime minister, Vladimir Putin, ordered a scorched-earth offensive into the breakaway republic. On the success of that offensive, the previously unknown Putin became a national hero and swiftly assumed complete control of the Russian state. It is a control he continues to exert today.
Here are some pro-Kremlin voices claiming the US blew up the pipelines to isolate / threaten / punish Germany for failing to do enough to support Ukraine.
Another pro-Kremlin media figure implying the US did this because the Neo-Cons of Bush era fame want another war, perhaps even World War III.
Here’s pro-Kremlin media figure Glenn Greenwald claiming Russia wouldn’t blow up their own pipeline.
EUvsDisinfo is one of the best resources out there who tracks Kremlin propaganda originating from a variety of sources. Here’s where they combat the claim that the US blew up the Nord Stream pipelines to sell more natural gas to Europe directly:
The claim that the US and its NATO partners might benefit is speculation. European gas prices, which had been going down in recent months, went up 12% the days after the leaks. Gazprom has been reducing the supply of gas to Europe since spring 2022, blaming Europe and calling for sanctions to be lifted. In early September. Gazprom announced an indefinite shutdown of NS1 after days and weeks of scheduled repairs. NS2 has never been operational. It was sanctioned after Russia launched its military aggression against Ukraine.
Here’s a Brooking’s piece which discusses how right-wing pro-Trump voices spready the claims that the US destroyed the pipelines far and wide. Charlie Kirk, Dan Bongino and others mentioned here. Jessica Brandt and Valerie Wirtschafter at Brookings write:
On his Wednesday show, the podcast host Dan Bongino mused, “Is the Biden Administration crazy enough to do this to light a spark that might cause World War III? The answer is, ‘I wouldn’t be surprised, and I bet neither would you.’” He continued, adding that “the motivations of the Biden Administration and the green agenda I think are far greater than the motivations of Russia.”
The most prolific disseminator of Nord Stream content between September 26 and October 3 was Charlie Kirk, who devoted four segments to furthering the unfounded theory linking the U.S. to the explosion. In one of these four episodes, Kirk directly implicated the U.S. government as the culprit, asking. “So who did it?” Kirk asked. “I know this sounds cynical, but…the American Washington, DC war machine stands to benefit from this.” Kirk has previously been a disseminator of Russian propaganda. In March 2022, we documented five episodes in which he shared the conspiratorial claim that the U.S. had provided funding to Ukraine for bioweapons research. Kirk has nearly 8 million followers across popular social media platforms, including YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Rumble, and Twitter.
If you want an explainer as to who the ex-KGB archivist Vasili Mitrokhin that’s better than Wikipedia, you should read this. Mitrokhin’s archives are cited extensively in tomorrow’s piece. Here’s Mitrokhin’s co-author, Christopher Andrew, discussing him in the introduction (as published by the New York Times):
Mitrokhin saw mounting evidence both in the classified in-house journal, KGB Sbornik, and in FCD files of Andropov's personal obsession with the destruction of dissent in all its forms and his insistence that the struggle for human rights was part of a wide-ranging imperialist plot to undermine the foundations of the Soviet state. In 1968 Andropov issued KGB Chairman's Order No. 0051, "On the tasks of State security agencies in combating ideological sabotage by the adversary," calling for greater aggression in the straggle against both dissidents at home and their imperialist supporters. One example of this greater aggression which left Mitrokhin, as an ardent admirer of the Kirov Ballet, with a sense of personal outrage was the plan which he discovered in FCD files to maim the ballet's star defector, Rudolf Nureyev.
By the beginning of the 1970s Mitrokhin's political views were deeply influenced by the dissident struggle, which he was able to follow both in KGB records and Western broadcasts. "I was a loner," he recalls, "but I now knew that I was not alone." Though Mitrokhin never had any thought of aligning himself openly with the human rights movement, the example of the Chronicle of Current Events and other samizdat productions helped to inspire him with the idea of producing a classified variant of the dissidents' attempts to document the iniquities of the Soviet system. Gradually the project began to form in his mind of compiling his own private record of the foreign operations of the KGB.
Putin has been saying Russia is at war with NATO since at least March.
Kremlin propaganda also says Russia at war with NATO (and increasingly so of late). According to the Daily Mail:
Russia's top diplomat has warned that NATO is now fighting a proxy war with Russia in Ukraine and there is a 'very serious' risk the conflict could turn nuclear.
Sergei Lavrov, speaking on Russian state TV last night, accused western leaders of risking a third world war by supplying heavy weapons to Ukraine with the goal of 'wearing down the Russian army' - an aim he described as an 'illusion'.
Accusing NATO and its allies of attempting to bully Russia on the international stage, Lavrov said that tensions between east and west are now worse than during the Cuban missile crisis at the height of the Cold War.
Addition examples of the “Russia at war with NATO rhetoric” documented by EUvsDisinfo here and here.
The best recap of Putin's speech after the Kremlin illegally annexed additional regions of Ukraine came from Max Seddon. If you missed the speech or want some informed analysis, check out this thread.
Kremlin disinformation campaigns against credible investigations of war crimes or other illegal acts are a feature, not a bug. EUvsDisinfo explains how the Kremlin’s response to the Nord Stream 1 and 2 sabotage mirrors the Kremlin’s behavior in the past, especially when they’ve been caught doing a terrorism. The example cited here is the Russian forces shooting down the MH17 passenger jet in 2014:
Dwelling for a moment on the tragic MH-17 event may be useful to detect pattern and tactics. Back then, the Russian information landscape quickly filled with accusations: -it was Ukraine, -it was the CIA, -it was a planned explosion because the plane carried already dead bodies, -it was terrorism – see our account here. Reality was, however, much simpler. The Russia-backed militants had already boasted in radio and phone exchanges of shooting down what they believed to be a Ukrainian plane. In the end, the international investigations, led by the Netherlands Police and helped by large troves of material including from the Bellingcat investigative group, even identified the Russian air defence brigade; the actual unit and its commanders have now been officially charged in court although they are currently hiding in Russia. See our cases here. Russia effectively boycotted the investigation and tried to derail it polluting the info space with all sorts of lies.
Additional examples of Kremlin disinformation campaigns are here and here.
The methane gas leak is an environmental disaster. Here’s a thread with the explainer.
Energy prices in the UK were already bad in August, and it’s projected to get worse. These are the sorts of real life stories of heartbreak the Kremlin wants to use for its own ends.
Jennifer Jones keeps feeding money into her energy meter, but it never seems to be enough. And when she can't pay, she feels the impact immediately.
The power in her London home has gone off suddenly three times recently, once when her partner was cooking an egg.
Like millions of people, Jones, 54, is struggling to cope as energy and food prices skyrocket during Britain's worst cost-of-living crisis in a generation. The former school supervisor has health problems and relies on government benefits to get by, but her welfare payments are nowhere near enough to cover her sharply rising bills.
“Russia is blackmailing us. Russia is using energy as a weapon,” Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the European Commission said earlier this year. Russia has a long history of using energy as a weapon, and for now, it’s working. Here’s how via the NYT.
European governments are paying high prices to stock up on the fuel, asking citizens and companies to save energy and unveiling sweeping emergency packages to cap energy bills and bail out struggling businesses.
Even countries that don’t import Russian gas are suffering, because electricity prices are closely linked to gas. The benchmark wholesale price of natural gas in Europe, which has been incredibly volatile since the war in Ukraine began, is roughly four times what it was a year ago.
The average European household is facing a monthly energy bill of 500 euros ($494) next year, triple the amount in 2021, according to estimates by analysts at Goldman Sachs. Applied to all energy users, that implies a €2 trillion increase in spending on heat and electricity.
Until tomorrow, folks…
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Love how you guys are doing this. Extremely informative and we can take it on our own level of understanding and time frame.