by Charles Curley
Special to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise
On Saturday, October 8th, Germany’s railway system, Deutsche Bahn (DB), had technical problems: cables related to its wireless communications system were broken, and service across much of northern Germany was interrupted for three hours. No big deal, most Germans would think. Once upon a time, Deutsche Bahn had an excellent reputation for service. Alas, DB’s service has been less than ideal of late. For example, in June and July, 60% of its trains were on time, well short of DB’s goal of 80%.
Nope. DB later said that it was an act of sabotage. German authorities have taken over the investigation. Cables were cut near Berlin and in North Rhine-Westphalia, which suggests co-ordination and planning.
An obvious suspect is, of course, Russia. Suppose Russia, not willing (or unable?) to go to all out war in retaliation for Germany’s (and NATO’s) aid to Ukraine, wanted to scare Germans — or the German government. This might or might not work. It hasn’t worked in Ukraine. It certainly didn’t for the Soviets during the Winter War. Nor did it work for Germany’s V1 and V2 bombing of Britain during World War II.
What if there is another objective here: to force the NATO governments to spend resources to guard their infrastructure? Does DB have the assets necessary to guard 34,000km of railway tracks? Even with 3,400 security personnel and 5,500 police officers, almost certainly not.
Ukraine, interestingly enough, recently pulled off a similar stunt. While the recent attacks on Kharson were not a feint, they were well publicized in advance. Armies don’t normally announce offensive actions in advance, so what gives? I have no idea if this was the intent, but Russia moved a lot of assets from Kharkiv to Kherson — leaving Kharkiv wide open for the spectacular Ukrainian offensive in that oblast. Meanwhile the Kherson offensive continues, with the Russians evacuating civilians — possibly forcibly.
And there are other assets to guard. There’s nothing new about attacking ocean cables: that may have started during the Spanish-American war. There are now some 1.3 million kilometers of undersea cable, which carry 95% of the world’s internet traffic.
Which brings us to the Nordstream I and II pipelines, which recently developed massive leaks. This did not affect Europe’s supply of natural gas because the Russians had stopped delivery through the two pipelines, supposedly for “maintenance”. Subsequently Vladimir Putin warned on October 12 that energy infrastructure around the world is now “at risk”. Swedish, Danish and German authorities are looking into the Nordstream explosions.
There is a strain of libertarianism that lays the blame for everything on the US government. Murray Rothbard made an art of it, and there is much to be said for the proposition. The usual suspects, some libertarian, others not, opining that Russia had nothing to gain by damaging the two pipelines, laid the blame for the Nordstream explosions on the US and NATO. So far as I know, no smoking gun implicating any actors has been found. And Russia does have a possible motive for both actions: forcing the West to expend resources to guard assets, including infrastructure.
So the Deutsche Bahn sabotage raises a question about blaming the Nordstream explosions on the western allies. Look before you leap to conclusions. We’ll see.
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