Putin claims Nord stream pipeline was 'attacked'

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An expert has warned that it is not just Britain’s underwater energy infrastructure that may be at risk of attack after the “sabotage” of Russia’s Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines raised the alarm for the West, but so too are its subsea internet cables, which if cut could have devastating consequences for the UK. While a Royal Navy frigate has been sent to patrol the North Sea to fend off an attack, Harry Buckle, author of ‘Just One Day’, who has also worked with MI6, says that Britain should also be focusing on its vulnerable network of subsea internet cables. 

He told Express.co.uk: “Vladimir Putin is unlikely to be the least bit concerned that, in light of the three massive holes in the Nord Stream pipeline supplying Russian gas to Europe, that the Royal Navy has deployed a frigate to patrol those vital gas pipelines. 

“Their mission is also to protect the now even more crucial new pipeline from Norway to Europe and indeed subsea cables”. But Mr Buckle stressed that the “current focus is on gas pipelines.”

This comes after Defence Secretary Ben Wallace warned that the “mysterious” attack on the Nord Stream pipelines should remind us of how “fragile” Britain’s energy and internet infrastructure are to “hybrid attacks”. 

But Mr Buckle has warned that Britain is “woefully under-equipped to defend millions of miles of subsea cables and thousands of miles of those vital high-pressure gas pipelines”.

He said: “To patrol and secure both cable and pipeline installations needs not only a Naval surface to patrol to keep watch for miscreant ships intent on sabotage but also one with some subsea capability to properly investigate underwater and possibly deal with explosives or mines”.

While Mr Wallace has confirmed that two specialist ships, including a “multi-role survey ship for seabed warfare” will be purchased at the end of the year, as well as a “second ship to be built in the UK” to make sure it covers vulnerabilities. 

But Mr Buckle warned that right now, we “embarrassingly have no vessels capable of securing or investigating what goes on beneath the surface. He added: “In the meantime, all we have with any kind of subsea capability are a few ageing Hunt-class mine sweepers.

“We have eight – of which just six are seaworthy and four of them are on permanent patrol in the Arabian Gulf, where they are needed to secure supplies in those volatile mine strewn waters of a significant percentage of what ‘non-Russian gas’ we and the Europeans can still hope to rely on.”

And if Putin, who is the West’s likely suspect for “sabotaging” the Baltic Sea Nord Stream pipelines last week, did target the UK’s internet cables, he would have almost 60 to choose from. 

This includes the shorter 80-mile CeltixConnect cable to Ireland, to the 8,000-mile Tata TGN-Atlantic, extending all the way to the US.

Back in 2018, former Chancellor Rishi Sunak produced a report for the Policy Exchange think-tank warning that Russia is “aggressively operating” in the Atlantic, where cables link Europe and the US.

And Mr Weichert has previously told Express.co.uk that the UK could be a prime target. He said back in April: “It is my contention that Russia absolutely will attempt to either cut or tap into those undersea cables if the crisis in Ukraine continues or escalates.

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The UK is extremely vulnerable to this kind of attack. Large clusters of those [internet] cables exist near or within the UK, making UK territorial waters a prime target for Russian meddling.”

He added: “A combination of intensive patrols in areas where the cables are located and diplomatic pressure is really all that can be done at present”. 

And if Russia did get to the cables unnoticed, it could be catastrophic. Mr Weichert said: “Cutting those cables would be catastrophic. It would degrade internet connectivity and effectively disconnect Europe from the rest of the world.

“This is especially troubling for the telecommunications side of things if Russia goes after Western satellite constellations.

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