NATO officials have expressed concerns that Russia may have already exploited Europe’s crucial underwater infrastructure amid fears that Putin may sabotage deepsea pipelines to punish Western countries for their support of Ukraine. In response to the attacks on the Nord Stream pipeline in September 2022, which resulted in damage to three of the four main lines that transport gas from Russia to Germany, the alliance is increasing efforts to safeguard undersea pipes and cables.
The bloc established the Critical Undersea Infrastructure Coordination Cell in February to monitor Russian espionage under the leadership of Lieutenant General Hans-Werner Wiermann, a retired German military officer, due to the concern over the potential for energy disruption.
The warning came at a time of increased tension after Russia accused Ukraine of a failed assassination attempt on Vladimir Putin, an accusation that Ukraine has vehemently denied.
On Wednesday, Intelligence chief David Cattler said: “There are heightened concerns that Russia may target undersea cables and other critical infrastructure in an effort to disrupt Western life, to gain leverage against those nations that are providing security to Ukraine.
“The Russians are more active than we have seen them in years in this domain.”
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He continued: “Russia is actively mapping allied critical infrastructure both on land and on the seabed.”
Mr Cattler added that NATO ships are patrolling the Atlantic more frequently than in prior years and that activity in the North and Baltic Seas have increased.
An estimated $10 trillion worth of financial transactions pass over the underwater infrastructure’s cables every day, and they are essential to the economy.
Mr Cattler also issued a warning that the enormous strategic benefit of being able to interfere with Western energy, internet, and banking systems has come to the attention of NATO’s adversaries.
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A NATO official told the Times: “There are strong suspicions that cables or pipelines have been mined. Companies have their own highly classified information. We have a lot of suspicions,
“Somewhere in Moscow there are people sitting and thinking of the best ways they can to blow up our pipelines or cut our cables.
“Our job is to make that a costly and futile endeavour.
“At least, to make it undeniable, lessening the appeal because it is then an act of war.”
Disruption to undersea pipelines are especially worrisome since they might have negative economic and social repercussions for the electricity supply, and because it would be very difficult to investigate any attacks.
Although there are hints that Russia may have been behind the attacks on the Nord Stream pipelines last year, the cause of the harm has not been identified with certainty.
According to the extent of the damage that was caused 80 metres below sea level in September, the attack would have required several hundred kilogrammes of explosives and equipment.
But according to recent reports, a Swedish warship might have watched a Russian convoy and tracked its movements in the days prior to the attack. A Danish newspaper revealed several weeks later that SS-750, a Russian submarine rescue ship, had been spotted in the Baltic Sea four days prior to the mysterious explosions.
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