By Matt BIVENS
Forty years ago (!), the U.S. security state was cheesed off by a Soviet natural gas pipeline from Siberia to Europe. So the CIA arranged to blow it up. The resulting massive explosion was visible from space. It set off U.S. nuclear explosion monitoring alarms, and startled White House security officials not in on the scheme.
We know this today because, years later, the people involved finally started bragging.
The 100 Days is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Their CIA operation — code-named the Farewell Dossier and lavishly praised in a tell-all book by Thomas Reed, a former secretary of the U.S. Air Force — fed the Soviets a supply of cleverly sabotaged computer chips. Once installed, the chips worked well for months — until the day they suddenly sent pipeline systems haywire.
The result, in June 1982, was a natural gas pipeline disaster in remote Siberia that Reed said was “the most monumental non-nuclear explosion and fire ever seen from space.”
News media at the time completely missed this sentinel event. A search of The New York Times archive for “Siberia” and “explosion” from June to August 1982 reveals only one article — which, irony of ironies, discussed how the United States and Soviet Union continued to threaten mutual nuclear annihilation. That article concluded by citing an expert who warned: “The real danger for us all is an accident.”
Hilariously, this expert then specifically cited the massive meteor of 1908 that struck Siberia and noted that a similar, unexplained Siberian explosion in 1982 could instantly trigger civilization-ending nuclear weapons launches: “In today’s atmosphere of distrust, a lot of systems would be put into action automatically.”
Could the CIA really have been reckless enough — during the incredible international tension of the early 1980s — to engineer a massive explosion in Siberia? This was an explosion visible from space, an explosion that set off nuclear warning bells — and CIA brought this about just because?
Apparently, yes. They are that reckless.
Don’t be surprised if you never heard of the Farewell Dossier, revealed more than 20 years later by former Air Force Secretary Reed’s book. It never got much media play. In The New York Times it has been mentioned exactly once, in a 2004 Op-Ed by conservative commentator William Safire. Remember, this was a terrorist-style attack on a foreign country, an escapade that only by chance killed no one. But in his bizarre crowing ode to the episode, Safire describes it as an example of American genius. His take-home sentence: “Now is a time to remember that sometimes our spooks get it right in a big way.”
You heard correctly. A CIA operation to risk accidental nuclear war and, in peace time, go blow up a Siberian pipeline — maybe killing a bunch of working-stiff oilmen, or maybe not, who cares? — that was a shining example of getting it right.
Good job everybody!
Re-reading Safire today — after Russia’s massive underseas gas pipelines to Europe have just been sabotaged, almost certainly by a U.S. government covert operation — is pretty eerie. Safire recounts how, in the 1980s, he had used the New York Times Op-Ed pages to repeatedly denounce Western European nations for supporting the hated Siberia-to-Europe pipeline. The pipeline had to be stopped, he argued, because it would “give control of European energy supplies to the Communists,” and fund “Soviet computer and satellite research:”
Fast-forward forty years, and this same world view is shared by Senator Ted Cruz, seen berating the Biden Administration last summer for its “capitulation” on Nord Stream 2 because Joe Biden was “soft on Russia.” But that same world view is in fact entirely shared by the Biden administration itself, which fully agreed with Cruz that we can’t let
the Communists subsidize their nefarious computer research Vladimir Putin put his oily hands on Europe.
President Biden himself upped the ante earlier this year, vowing that if Russia really did invade Ukraine, “then there will be no longer a Nord Stream 2:”
It will “be no longer.”
Now that same pipeline lies breached by underseas explosions, creating a massive ecological disaster. The methane boiling out of the sea looks like a hurricane of war rushing at our planet. All that’s missing are a bunch of Ukrainian peace doves overwhelmed by the fumes, dropping from the skies, floating stunned or dead on the water.
Meanwhile we have NATO cheerfully tweeting — on the same day of the pipeline explosions (!) — about how their maritime exercises underway right now “present opportunities to test new unmanned systems at sea”:
#NATO exercises present opportunities to test new unmanned systems at sea, ensuring that Allies can work together to counter current and future security challenges More info: bit.ly/3LQaY7Y
Russia is demanding a UN Security Council session to discuss the pipeline attack. The European Union leadership is waking up and also demanding an investigation of an obvious case of sabotage. Even the White House agrees it sure looks like sabotage!
But sabotage by whom? Incredibly, mainstream U.S. media and commentators continue to lead with the theory that Russia might have blown up its own pipeline. Here’s The New York Times headline from yesterday:
The article — top New York Times analysis of a major world development — offers the following gem: “At first glance, it seems counter-intuitive that the Kremlin would damage its own multibillion-dollar assets.”
But look beyond that first glance! Because the Russians, it seems, are just that sneaky! Sure, they may have had the ability to turn the pipeline off and on at will, but instead they prefer to blow it up just to freak us all out! Soon they will probably set fire to the Kremlin, just to scare the bejesus out of us.
Here’s a similarly boneheaded hot take by the reliably-wrongheaded Anders Åslund:
My favorite so far: A journalist in the White House press corps asked presidential spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre whether Russia blowing up its own pipeline and leaking oil and gas all over European coastlines counted as “an attack on a NATO ally worthy of retaliation.” Because, I guess, pollution? She replied by, ha ha, declining to get too far ahead of things:
Let’s not waste any more time on such absurd fairytales.
Instead, let’s just see this moment for what it is: A major, frightening leap forward toward a world war.
With escalating bad decisions, we are accelerating our march toward a direct conflict between the United States and Russia. Such a war would be completely artificial in its creation. It would be in neither nation’s interest. It could easily trigger a civilization-ending nuclear weapons exchange that could kill most people on Earth. And this entire mindless zombie march toward doom could be called off tomorrow — if only the Biden Administration chose to support a Ukraine-Russia peace process, and to renounce aggressive NATO expansion.
Instead of conciliation, the U.S. State Department has just announced that all U.S. citizens visiting, living in, or working in Russia should leave “immediately” — adding ominously, “while limited commercial travel options remain:”
Commercial flight options [out of Russia] are extremely limited at present and are often unavailable on short notice [says the State Department]. Overland routes by car and bus are still open. … U.S. citizens should not travel to Russia and those residing or traveling in Russia should depart Russia immediately while limited commercial travel options remain.
This in itself is a significant, dark new development. Yet it’s barely news, in a world moving at terrifying speed in the wrong direction.