Putin to poised to target UK-Norway energy supplies with new weapons

Nord Stream leaks were intentional says Danish Foreign Minister

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Britain is on high alert, as Russia is developing weapons that could target critical energy infrastructure like undersea gas pipelines or electricity cables. Fears over such an attack have grown exponentially since September last year when a number of leaks were discovered along the 1,234 km-long Nord Stream pipelines between Russia and Germany. Experts believe that the leaks were an act of sabotage, with many critics pointing towards Russia. While the Kremlin has denied these allegations, it has led Western forces to begin adapting to new threats from undersea, amid fears that their own gas pipelines and undersea cables could be at risk.

Swedish investigators discovered traces of explosives at the leaking site near the Russian-built Nord Stream pipelines, which bypassed Ukraine and Poland by transmitting gas via the Baltic Sea.

Analyst Sidharth Kaushal of Britain’s Royal United Services Institute told VoA: “There has been a growing awareness of the vulnerability of critical national infrastructure, but the event in the Baltic Sea certainly brought the issue into sharp relief.”

Days after the suspected sabotage, Britain’s defence minister Ben Wallace confirmed that the UK will be purchasing a Multi-Role Ocean Surveillance Ship (MROSS), while another will be built here.

The specialised vessel will not be available until the end of 2024, but British military forces have already deployed strategies to protect our underwater infrastructure.

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Mr Wallace said in October: “Our internet and energy are highly reliant on pipelines and cables. Russia makes no secret of its ability to target such infrastructure. So for that reason, I can announce we’ve recently committed to two specialist ships with the capability to keep our cables and pipelines safe.”

The first of these specialised ships is due to enter service this year and is designed to act as a “mother ship,” operating remote and autonomous systems for underwater surveillance and seabed warfare.

Mr Kaushal warned this undersea infrastructure is critical as millions of kilometres of cables and pipelines carry the energy and data that power the global economy

He said: “A number of challengers to the West, Russia most notably, are developing bespoke capabilities to target precisely these vulnerabilities, things like special purpose submarines.”

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While NATO has vowed to retaliate against any “deliberate attack against allies’ critical infrastructure”, Mr Kausal added that the West will need to clarify its rules of engagement.

He said: “What does one actually do when one observes, for example, a submarine tampering with critical national infrastructure, but not in a way that necessarily leads to an immediate loss of life? So actually, it’s more a question of how you change organizational practices to deal with this sort of activity.”

A similar leak to the pipelines connecting the UK and Norway could be catastrophic for Britain, as the country is the UK’s single biggest supplier of gas, responsible for 60 percent of the total gas demand.

Meanwhile, an attack on undersea cables would plunge the UK into a major energy security nightmare and could trigger major power shortages and blackouts this winter, particularly as National Grid is predicted to import 1.4 GW from Norway.

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In November, a leaked document revealed that ministers were “war-gaming” Programme Yarrow, which is a blueprint for how the UK could deal with a week-long national power outage.

Leaked documents have said that the Government is planning for a “reasonable worst-case scenario”, where all sectors including transport, food and water supply, communications and energy could be “severely disrupted” for up to a week.

Speaking to Express.co.uk, Dr Simon Cran-McGreehin, the Head of Analysis at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit previously that if Putin were to target the UK’s energy infrastructure, this could cause enough disruption to force the Government to trigger Programme Yarrow.

He said: “Yes. If our supplies from Norway and the continent were disrupted in some way, then it would have a significant impact on our gas supplies.

“We also import significant amounts from LNG ships, they come directly to ports. But nevertheless, if any of our energy infrastructures were to be compromised, then absolutely we’d see the sort of major interruption that the Government is planning for now.

He added that while he doesn’t know whether Russian sabotage would be factored into the UK’s plans, “I think that the Government will be very concerned about the rumours and suggestions that Russia has been allegedly interfering with energy infrastructure.”

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