Nord Stream Pipeline Explosion Explained: Economic Power Defeated by Brains

The latest investigative reporting in The Atlantic reveals how sabotage of huge gas pipes under the sea was likely the work of just a few very smart people in a sailboat.

My favorite part of the story are the social engineering tricks used to track down the exact boat.

…she played stupid. She knew that the boating communities of north Germany were still almost exclusively male, and decided that pretending ignorance would suit their expectations.

A typical conversation went like this: “I want to rent a boat this year, and my friends, they rented a boat called Andromeda last year,” she would begin, explaining that her friends had been “so happy with it.” Then she said she didn’t know any details about the boat, even whether it was a motorboat or a sailboat.

“Well, a sailing boat usually has a mast on it,” one of the charter officials told her.

She quickly found what she was looking for.

It’s a fantastic article with extremely good analysis. However, I will say the author entirely misses a crucial precedent from 2008.

…four CIA spies died when they sailed into a tropical storm on daring mission to plant listening pod disguised as a rock on seabed…

Sailing into Tropical Storm Higos was not smart, which is why we know so much about it.

The Atlantic article gives a lot of focused attention on diving to the Nord Stream Pipeline, much more than use of long lines and remote controls. It’s entirely possible to inexpensively avoid diving while placing explosives 300ft under the surface. The author even describes the construction of the pipeline on the surface in terms of a simple engineering design that could be used to destroy it on the seabed, but never puts the two together.

I’m also reminded of a post I wrote a while ago about the Vietnam War, with modern armies thinking about future conflict in terms of needing brains more than brawn.

When you really get into reading Mrazek, you have to wonder why he didn’t call his 1968 thesis the war of art:

The impotence of the American juggernaut in Vietnam has put this problem under the spotlight of history. The one thing the guerrillas have in abundance is imagination, and this seems to outweigh the imbalance in materiel. It is the author’s contention that creativity is what wins battles–the same faculty that inspires great art.

All this means really that Russia is in deep trouble.

Its dictator has spent decades destroying any ability to think creatively (e.g. undermining threats to dictatorship) in order to drive a sad state of fealty (e.g. coin-operated politicians he controls with assassinations).

On that note, the least creative political party in the world (pro-Putin GOP) appears to be trying to use its economic power to help this dictator and his thoughtless hordes lose their wars more slowly and at an even higher cost.

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