“Russia could strike”. NATO opens center to protect underwater infrastructure

There is a new NATO center in London to protect underwater pipelines and cables, writes the Washington Post. The decision to create it was made after the sabotage of the Nord Streams in the Baltic Sea, and amid information that Russia was conducting reconnaissance in the waters around Europe.

“The threat is developing”, said Lt. Gen. Hans-Werner Wirmann, who has been dealing with the issue in the alliance. “Russian ships have been actively mapping our critical underwater infrastructure. There are heightened fears that Russia could strike submarine cables, <…> trying to disrupt life in the West”, he said.

About 8,000 kilometers of oil and gas pipelines cross the North Sea alone. About 100 cable-cutting incidents are reported each year, and it’s often hard to tell if they were intentional. The new center and NATO allies will focus on high-risk areas, including the safety of the most vulnerable pipelines in shallow water that can be easily reached by divers.

“To support the center, we decided to create a critical underwater infrastructure network that brings together NATO, allies and the private sector. This will help improve information sharing about evolving risks and threats”, Wirmann noted.

Explosions at the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines, which were built to transport Russian natural gas to Germany, occurred Sept. 26. Who was behind it is still unknown. The Swedish prosecutor said the investigation is nearing completion, and the culprits will be named in the fall.

An investigation by Scandinavian broadcasters was published in April and found that Russia was using civilian ships to gather intelligence on Western countries’ military activities and critical infrastructure in the North Sea. Sources in European power structures claimed that such work was being carried out “as part of Russia’s preparations for a major war with NATO”.

Against this background, the North Atlantic Alliance expanded its presence in the Baltic and North Seas, deploying dozens of ships supported by maritime patrol aircraft and underwater equipment, including drones.

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