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Dams Are Breaking in Ukraine

On Tuesday, news broke that the Kakhovka Dam in Kherson had been destroyed. But by whom?

UKRAINE-DIPLOMACY

On Tuesday, news broke that the Kakhovka Dam in Kherson had burst. How it burst remains unknown, but the consensus is that it was destroyed. But by whom?

Ukraine’s answer was expected: It was Russia. President Volodymyr Zelensky called the breach “the largest man-made environmental disaster in Europe in decades.” Russia pointed the finger in the other direction.

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Unsurprisingly, some American politicians joined in Ukraine’s condemnation. Rep. Ted Lieu, a Democrat from California, called the destruction of the Kakhovka Dam “another war crime by Russia.”

Tuesday’s news cycle held another surprise vis-a-vis Ukraine—one bizarrely germane to the destroyed dam. Three months before the September attacks on the Nord Stream pipelines, the Washington Post reports, the Biden administration received intelligence from an allied nation that the Ukrainian military planned to attack the pipelines with a small team of divers. 

The allied nation reportedly shared the intelligence with the CIA in June 2022, and the detailed report claims that for a year prior Western nations suspected Ukrainian involvement in a potential, and now materialized, sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines. Since the attack on the Nord Stream pipelines, German authorities have produced evidence that the attack resembled what the intelligence report claimed Ukraine was planning.

The intelligence report was part of the trove of documents in the Discord Leak, which made public headlines starting in April but were posted for months on Discord chat servers in the months prior. 

Other theories have previously circulated about the bombing of the Nord Stream pipelines. In a February post on Substack, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh claimed that the bombing was a joint American-Norwegian operation.

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The June 2022 intelligence report was based on information obtained by a Ukrainian source, though the Post could not pin down the exact origins. Nevertheless, the CIA found the intelligence reliable enough to share with multiple allies in Europe, including Germany, unnamed sources told the Post

In the aftermath of the Nord Stream pipeline attacks, Ukraine and its Western backers were quick to lay the blame at Russia’s feet. President Joe Biden said it was “a deliberate act of sabotage.” Administration officials and other Western governments parroted the line: Russia blew up the pipelines to strangle Europe’s energy supply as the winter approached.

Some Biden administration officials will essentially admit as much in private. According to the Post, Biden administration officials said there is no direct evidence Russia is responsible.

The regime-approved narrative that Russia was behind the bombing of its own pipelines never made a ton of sense. Why would Russia destroy its hard-won pipelines when they could just turn off the tap? Why would Russia forgo energy revenue that could fund the war effort? And, because it is true that European nations have knee-capped their capacity to produce their own energy, why would Russia sacrifice future revenue? If the war is eventually settled, sanctions on Russian energy won’t continue in perpetuity. It’s more likely the West re-opens to Russian energy than it is to reverse course on energy production.

“Let me just begin by saying, I don't know who did it,” Michael Anton, a Trump-administration alum and research fellow at Hillsdale College's Kirby Center, told The American Conservative regarding the Nord Stream attack. “The last time I paid attention, the U.S. intelligence community budget aggregate was $70 billion. So it's got to be higher than that now. If we're spending 70, or 80, or however many billions we spend a year, I have to think we know who did it. Either that or what the hell are we getting for our money? And if the U.S. government knows who did it and isn't saying, then it likely wasn't Russia, because if they could confirm that it was Russia, they would blare that from every loudspeaker at their disposal.”

“It never made sense to me that Russia would do it,” Anton continued, “when this infrastructure is completely critical to the Russian economy. Let's remember, foreign policy mavens of both parties have been saying for years to Germany, to other Central European and Western European countries that it is not in your interest to be reliant on Russian gas, because they can then use resource blackmail against you.”

“Russia has three great reasons not to blow up that pipeline. One is they make a lot of money off of it. Two, it was expensive to build and would be expensive to repair or rebuild. And three, you can't do resource blackmail if your pipeline doesn't work,” Anton said.

As in the case of the Nord Stream pipelines, ideology is now blinding what interest might suggest about the destruction of the Kakhovka Dam. The dam sits right on the Dnipro river, the front that divides Russia and Ukraine in the South. The dam, and the powerplant attached to it, sits on the Russian side of the river. The estimated flood zone disproportionately impacts the Russian side of the river.

“I think you should always be cautious in the days after attacks like this to definitively assign blame. Both Ukraine and Russia have engaged in attacks against each other's infrastructure and against civilians too. But I think that it's ridiculous for a lot of people in the media, just like they did with Nord Stream, to say that this was clearly Russia, and that any discussion of whether or not Ukraine did this is somehow Russian appeasement,” Dan Caldwell, vice president of the Center for Renewing America, told TAC.

“Ukraine has the capability to do this,” Caldwell claimed. “There were Ukrainian generals late last year talking about using HIMARS to attack this very piece of infrastructure. So you can't discount the fact that Ukraine may have been responsible for this. They have the capability, and they've expressed the desire to do it in the past.”

“That's not a definitive statement of whether or not they did or didn't do it,” Caldwell continued, but the Nord Stream episode “is the perfect example of why you shouldn't believe first reports.”

Nord Stream pipelines aside, this wouldn’t be the first time that Ukraine has denied involvement in events they had a hand in. In May, Ukraine denied involvement in a sally by Ukraine-connected military groups into the Russian region of Belgorod. Simultaneously, Ukraine’s Main Directorate of Intelligence (HUR) claimed that it had coordinated with the soldiers conducting the Belgorod operation. In another instance, Ukraine denied involvement in an incident in which a Ukrainian-fired missile fell on a grain processing plant in Poland, killing two Poles. “I have no doubt that it was not our rocket,“ Zelensky said, even after Western investigators concluded it was. “It was a Russian missile,” Zelensky insisted.

Addressing The American Conservative’s 10th annual Foreign Policy Conference on Capitol Hill Thursday, Rep. Dan Bishop of North Carolina told attendees, “We see a story emerging in the Washington Post that it was Ukraine who was planning to destroy, to sabotage the Nord Stream pipelines. You know, first it was Russia that was doing that. New story that emerges, of course, now Russia being accused of destroying the dam in territory occupied by the Russian army. How will that turn out? Will it follow the same pattern that we've seen and how is this consistent with a fighting force in Ukraine that can be depended upon to defeat the Russians soundly?”

In the Ukraine war, dams are breaking all over the place.