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This Will Be The Most Epic War Film In Ages
The final boss Nord Stream conspiracy theory is awesome
So I got a little busy and behind the news cycle, but as always I am content to give colder takes on hot wars than other would-be opinionators. History takes time to do right. ‘The first draft of history’ invariably requires corrections and updates because human beings get stuff wrong. Sometimes they report things that are too good (or bad, depending on your perspective) to be true.
I want this to be true. It is too good to be true. I need someone to prove it is true.
According to Shane Harris and Isabelle Khurshudyan, Ukrainians conducted the greatest combat diving operation in the short and very modern history of that military revolution. My suggested titles for the film or streaming series based on this allegedly true story include Frogmen of the Dnipro and A Nation Goes Diving for Destiny. I want this story to be true so much that I remain an utter skeptic that it is true. I need to be convicted, not just convinced, by evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, or blind quotes from a country with murky politics, that “Roman Chervinsky, a colonel in Ukraine’s special operations forces, was integral to the brazen sabotage operation.” And I will be delighted to be wrong. Indeed my joy will be boundless, if this is true.
So I cannot rely on “people familiar with planning” or “people familiar with his role” or “people familiar with the operation” or “officials in Ukraine and elsewhere in Europe, as well as other people knowledgeable about the details” or some other verbal construction that leaves these names off the record. I am writing a script, after all. This video format program must exist. Cinema, Netflix, whatever. I want it injected into my veins. Roman Chervinsky will, if true, go down in the history of spycraft as a legend of operational planning. Act I, Scene 1, right after the opening credits of Ukraine being attacked in February 2022, will begin with Zelenskyy speaking to the Ukrainian nation on a desktop screen as Col. Roman Chervinsky watches.
His name and rank in titles are displayed on our screen. Remember his name. He is a historic figure — if the story is true.
Shot 1: ROMAN (clicking video closed)
[Begins typing into]
Shot 2: [Search box of non-copyrighted search engine, typing]
“sailboats for rent in the baltic”
What Harris and Khurshudyan term “a controversial act of sabotage that has spawned multiple criminal investigations and that U.S. and Western officials have called a dangerous attack on Europe’s energy infrastructure” would also be a miracle of militry logistics and planning.
No really. This is incredible. The story must be told.
Six people used a small yacht to place one and a half tons of explosives at how many different points separated by how much water in 24 hours or so? You see what I mean, dear reader. These were the greatest combat divers who ever visited Davy Jones. Ever. Living legends. I need their stories. They have the greatest undersea war story never told. I yearn to read more, to ask questions, to tell the story myself, if true. I am a relentless fanboy of the whole thing, if true.
This much commitment will require greater proof than the Washington Post or Der Spiegel has so far provided.
A reader might think I am being facetious here but they will be a reader who does not read my work at all, or has not read enough of it yet. I write in deadly earnest. Russia’s war with Ukraine is primarily over energy and capital infrastructure going west from Russia. It is the Putinian Belt-and-Road initiative. As I have laid out at length behind the paywall, grain is a species of exchange in the Black Sea going back at least 7,000 years. Ports and harbors and dockyards and pipelines and even railroads and highways in Ukraine are all objects coveted by the controlling clique of siloviki in the Kremlin.
Until their destruction, the Nord Stream pipelines were Russia’s alternative to sending energy to Europe through Ukraine. Destroying them would indeed increase Ukrainian leverage at the peace table, for Russia wants to make those yummy Euros again one day if they can. ‘Not through us, without our permission,’ said Ukrainians. What a war story.
This war film will also be incompatible with a great number of conspiracy theories. If Ukraine is a western puppet they have a strange way of showing it under the Baltic Sea, according to the Washington Post. They risked alienating crucial allies. In short, they acted alone, independently, and not at all like a puppet state.
Consider the conspiracy theory in which sinister parties planned the expansion of NATO by forcing Russia to invade Ukraine. I have always regarded these takes the way I see an abusive stepfather who claims that their hospitalized child forced them to the extreme punishment of requiring medical care. Not only is this view of history deranged and wrong, it is risible. Ukraine is being slow-walked into NATO with maximum inefficiency, and solely because of the Russian invasion. Time only flows in one direction in our universe.
Similarly, if the conspiracy began hatching in 2014 to have Russia invade in 2022 so that Joe Biden and Jake Sullivan could slow-walk the delivery of crucial elements of the combined arms package needed for battlefield breakthrough all the way to the end of 2023, effectively neutering any large counteroffensive potential for Ukrainian forces this whole year, then it is the most bullsh*t conspiracy to arm any friendly nation, ever, and both men ought to be ashamed of themselves.
No wonder Ukrainians (reportedly) struck at Russia on their own, under the Baltic. They are fighting a war for their own existence. Meanwhile those two chuckleheads, Biden and Sullivan, have managed to let Russia proliferate conflicts across the Sahel and Middle East in response to each added supply chain, staggering delivery rather than let Ukrainians have the shock value of the entire combined arms package all at one time and defeat Russian arms this year, before the Kremlin can spread the flames of war across the planet.
“U.S. officials have at times privately chastised Ukrainian intelligence and military officials for launching attacks that risked provoking Russia to escalate its war on Ukraine. But Washington’s unease has not always dissuaded Kyiv,” the WaPo reports, as if the alleged perpetrators are supposed to feel chastened by their reporting. What Jake and Joe get for all that caution and nuance and respecting of red lines is more wars and fewer resources to fight them. Slow clap, guys. Brilliant work. If you don’t get reelected next year it is your own damn fault.
Finally, and then we get back to the story, if the WaPo is right about this, then Seymour Hersh is a confirmed bullsh*t artist in addition to a Kremlin outlet, disinformer, and fabricator of stupid science fiction narratives. He has been this person for quite some time and historians must eventually reckon with that record — if the story is true — because his ridiculous fandom is quite sure the WaPo is covering up for Joe Biden and Jake Sullivan with this story. (By logical extension, those two men are perfect at complex, covert undersea operations, but not at anything else that looks like a war. Make it make sense please.)
“Roman Chervinsky, a decorated 48-year-old colonel who served in Ukraine’s special operations forces, was the ‘coordinator’ of the Nord Stream operation … managing logistics and support for a six-person team that rented a sailboat under false identities and used deep-sea diving equipment to place explosive charges on the gas pipelines.” This patriot “did not act alone, and he did not plan the operation. Instead, Chervinsky “took orders from more senior Ukrainian officials, who ultimately reported to Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, Ukraine’s highest-ranking military officer.”
This command structure “was designed to keep Zelensky out of the loop, people familiar with the operation said.” Plausible deniability, in other words. Zelenskyy’s public statements all comport with being kept out of the loop. If anyone ever does confirm this story on the record, which seems unlikely, it is most likely to be Gen. Zaluzhny sometime after the war is over. He has so far denied the story and claimed it is Russian propaganda, which for reasons I have explained before, has been a viable explanation for this story ever since it first bubbled to the surface. Russian ship movements around the time of the explosions seem far more viable as an explanation for the blasts; or, those sorties could be another narrative element in complex Russian deception games. Or they may have just been coincidental exercises.
My skepticism of Ukrainian responsibility thus far has been inspired in part by a knowledge and understanding of Russian false-flag operations. Also: pipeline cleaning. Energy war has infrastructure. The simplest way to demolish pipeline infrastructure is always from the inside, out, by insiders. Occam’s razor and all that.
But I can be wrong, and I am delighted to be wrong about this. Please let me be wrong.
“In June 2022, the Dutch military intelligence agency, the MIVD, obtained information that Ukraine might be planning to attack Nord Stream,” WaPo reports. “Officials at the CIA relayed to Zaluzhny through an intermediary that the United States opposed such an operation, according to people familiar with those conversations.” It was “Maj. Gen. Viktor Hanushchak, a seasoned and respected officer, who communicated directly with Zaluzhny” on behalf of Chervinsky.
Again, if true then the entire story of Ukraine’s western-puppethood explodes like an overpressurized gas pipeline and comes to the surface to evaporate in a great foaming bubble. I am all for it.
As for the protagonist introduced in Scene 1:
Chervinsky was well suited to help carry out a covert mission meant to obscure Ukraine’s responsibility. He has served in senior positions in the country’s military intelligence agency as well as the Security Service of Ukraine, the SBU, and he is professionally and personally close to key military and security leaders.
He has also helped carry out other secretive operations.
According to the sources who spoke with Khurshudyan and Harris, there is so much fodder for spy game drama here that a clever writing team could even milk multiple seasons out of this. Flashbacks can contextualize Chervinsky’s many spy games with Russia over the years, especially the one that has him in trouble at the moment. The emphases here are all mine:
Chervinsky is being held in a Kyiv jail on charges that he abused his power stemming from a plot to lure a Russian pilot to defect to Ukraine in July 2022. Authorities allege that Chervinsky, who was arrested in April, acted without permission and that the operation gave away the coordinates of a Ukrainian airfield, prompting a Russian rocket attack that killed a soldier and injured 17 others.
Hanushchak, who is no longer serving in the special operations forces, has said publicly that the operation was approved by the armed forces, and he declined to comment for this article.
Chervinsky has said he was not responsible for the Russian attack and that in trying to persuade the pilot to fly to Ukraine and hand over his aircraft, he was acting under orders. He calls his arrest and prosecution political retribution for his criticism of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his administration. Chervinsky has said publicly that he suspects Andriy Yermak, one of Zelensky’s closest advisers, of spying for Russia. He has also accused the Zelensky administration of failing to sufficiently prepare the country for Russia’s invasion.
“The operation to recruit the Russian pilot involved units of the SBU, the Air Force, and the Special Operations Forces,” Chervinsky said in his written statement to The Post and Der Spiegel. “The operation was approved by the commander in chief Valery Zaluzhny.”
This intelligence officer fits a type. I have seen him before in congressional testimony. His name was Oliver North and he was a lieutenant colonel in the United States Marine Corps who worked in the Reagan administration. North was balls-to-the-wall, the kind of crazy that storms defended beachheads. This Col. Chervinsky strikes me as another North, a man so dedicated to winning the fight that no one else can possibly meet his standards of dedication. That makes him abrasive.
His family never sees him. He might be a bit obsessive. He doesn’t sleep, displays monomanias around the operational requirements of the mission, chafes at his bureaucratic limitations, paces the floor, shouts at friends, takes walks in a Kyiv park to see a nation that is at war, and watches a missile strike. Leaving the devastated scene behind, he has a new focus on completing his mission.
Chervinsky must plan and recruit the greatest combat diving team in world history. He must get them trained up and on their way to a sailboat with, and I cannot possibly stress this enough, one and a half tons of powerful shaped charges made of specialized high explosives.
Chervinsky has to give them false identities and perhaps some gear. The rest is up to the team, and so we must learn more about the “group of Ukrainian specialists” who “chartered a sailboat and planted the explosives that ruptured three of the four pipes comprising Nord Stream 1 and 2,” as the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) said in August.
Here we insert the inevitable scene in which THE TEAM meets for the first time. They do not all like one another. Rivalries threaten unity. A woman on the team changes the energy of the mission. Perhaps using a submersible drone towed behind the sailboat, THE TEAM carry out an incredible mission working against the clock and return safely to Ukraine — only to find that reporters, nongovernmental law enforcement organizations, and intelligence agencies are sniffing around their business. Their units and jobs. Their families.
See? Drama! Conflict! Episodes, even seasons of potential storytelling!
Missing links abound. Who is “Nataliia A., 54,” the woman who “resides in Kyiv and seems to lack any experience in tourism” that allegedly chartered the sailing yacht Andromeda? “When reporters called her Ukrainian mobile phone, she hung up as soon as they identified themselves as journalists,” the OCCRP reported in October. “A few days later, an individual claiming to be a police officer returned the call and threatened to sue the reporter for stalking.” Was that Chervinsky? Emphases mine again:
When they arrived in Warnemünde to board the yacht, the suspects presented a Romanian passport in the name of Ștefan Marcu. Along with colleagues from the investigative networks Rise Moldova and OCCRP, the reporters managed to track him down and find out that the 60-year-old had no involvement in the attack. His passport had expired a month after the attack, but somehow his information was used to create a new one but with the photo of a 20-year-old.
Reporters believe the person in the photo is actually a man known as Valeri K. from Dnipro, Ukraine, who is currently serving in the Ukrainian Army’s 93rd Brigade. However, the photo could also have been misused as DNA samples taken from traces left on Andromeda and samples taken from Valeri's son have not matched.
Let that sink in. Someone has already obtained a DNA sample of a person’s son in an effort to confirm his involvement in the Nord Stream blasts. Valeri K. may be a diver, or he may be yet another cover name. Watching Chervinsky direct or participate in creating the false identity would be fascinating. Watching European law enforcement visit Ukraine and steal a child’s empty soda can from the trash can at the exhibition of burned-out tanks in Kyiv would be fascinating. Watching Chervinsky take measures to protect THE TEAM would be fascinating.
It is risible to suggest that some sort of cover-up has taken place after the Nord Stream blasts. This is a spy game. If you are a member of the American Air National Guard serving in a unit that gives you far too much access and way too little supervision, and you are trying to win an argument on the internet, and you dump TS:SCI level PDFs showing concern inside the Biden administration about probable Ukrainian responsibility, then you have earned your prison time, buddy, but only barely.
Reports of Ukrainian responsibility have been floating like flotsam ever since the detonations occurred. German prosecutors have been on the case since the beginning, if we believe the German journalists on the case. Intelligence is never a business of pure certainty and neither is journalism. Die Zeit, Der Spiegel, and the TV station ZDF are not covering up for the Biden administration even if that is somehow true of the Washington Post or the New York Times. These reporters are all reporting on something that is either true, or else a campaign of deception. Team Joe and Jake are publicly quiet in part because of what they don’t know.
Which brings us to the twist for the third act of our drama, because Chervinsky is blaming “a leak from Zelensky’s inner circle” for failed spy games. Politics is involved, which is why this all feels so very Oliver North to me. Khurshudyan and Harris write of “the complex dynamics and internal rivalries of the wartime government in Kyiv, where Ukraine’s intelligence and military establishment is often in tension with its political leadership.”
“It is not just one ‘mole’ [in Zelensky’s administration], it is a bunch of people,” Chervinsky said, naming Yermak as well as two other Zelensky advisers. He accused administration officials of being “afraid of challenging Russia.
Chervinsky seems to be in trouble for the rocket attack which followed his efforts to recruit the Russian pilot to defect with his aircraft. This program has been reported on before. What matters here is that Russian Intelligence Services were playing the spy game with Chervinsky, and that this likely occupied most of his average working day with special operations. Imagine a film about catfishing, but make it a war film, and have things explode.
Chervinsky’s willingness to sacrifice Ukrainian lives in order to obtain an aircraft that might save hundreds or thousands of Ukrainian lives is a classic trolley car dilemma and exactly what I mean by comparing him to Oliver North. It is John Le Carré-level story fodder about the psychic traumas of the spy war. Inject it into my veins, please.
In the meantime, both combatants are gearing up for the next winter energy war. This time, Ukraine has scores of new Gepard systems and ammunition, new Patriot batteries, and other air defense equipment. We will see F-16s in the fight sometime soon, shooting down Russian bombers with long-range missiles. A few Ukrainian strikes on electrical infrastructure have signalled their willingness to fight back on more equal terms this time.
In the meantime, Russia’s energy war against the west also continues. The Nord Stream pipeline explosions fit very well into the framework of energy war against the west, further complicating attribution. As if to demonstrate how difficult the undersea spy war (and actual war) can be, Finnish investigators have still not assigned responsibility for the Balticonnector pipeline damage which occurred on 10 October. Indeed, they have consistently slow-walked any public conclusions at all. While they are sure the damage was man-made, whether it was deliberate remains unclear. NATO partners have called for action if it was a Russian attack, but only if, making the conditional clear.
During the second week of the investigation, the focus of worldwide attention fell on a Chinese ship, the Newnew Polar Bear. China is “cooperating” in the usual way that China “cooperates.” She belongs to Torgmoll, “a Russian-registered company with offices in Moscow and Shanghai,” according to the Barents Observer. Her owners intend to use her for arctic shipping between Europe and China as part of the Belt-and-Road initiative. A ship’s anchor is reportedly responsible for the pipeline damage, which she incurred on the way out of St. Petersburg on the return trip to China of her maiden voyage. Newnew Polar Bear “sailed together with Rosatom’s nuclear powered container ship Sevmorput” as she left port. Accident? Or “accident”? Finnish investigators still do not have access to the ship yet and I am not holding my breath.
Spy war, energy war, wartime politics and paranoia. Yes, this movie will have all the things in it. I must see it. Why is it not already being made?
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