Royal Navy frigate 'not enough' to protect UK's 'vast network' of North Sea cables


Britain’s attempt to protect its vast network of subsea energy and internet cables with two “specialist ships” will “not be enough” to fend off a Russian attack, an expert has told Express.co.uk. Brandon Weichert, a geopolitical analyst and former Congressional staff member, told Express.co.uk that far more ships are needed to limit the threat after the Ministry of Defence confirmed it will send out two ships to patrol the seas following a suspected “sabotage” of Russia’s Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines., which caused gas to leak out into the Baltic Sea last week. While clear evidence as to who the perpetrator was has yet to surface, the West is appearing to point the finger at Moscow for allegedly attacking the systems that were designed to send gas from Russia to Germany.

This has sparked fears that Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has made note of Russia’s capability to target undersea infrastructure in the past, may target Britain’s “vast network”. Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has warned that the “mysterious” damage to the Nord Stream pipelines should be a reminder of how “fragile” the UK economy and infrastructure are in the face of “hybrid attacks”.

In response, Mr Wallace confirmed that Britain will send out two “specialist ships” to patrol and protect the UK’s subsea network from Russia as its “internet and energy are highly reliant on pipelines and cables”.

But Mr Weichert said: “Two ships are not enough to defend the vast layers of cables.

“This is why since 2014, I’ve urged nations like Britain, France, Germany, Sweden, and others to cooperatively invest in enhancing their naval capabilities to be able to better defend the local waters from obvious Russian aggression. But the upside with Britain is that their navy is highly capable and two ships are better than none.

“London is fixated on trying to deploy their naval forces to faraway places like the Indo-Pacific and off the coast of Argentina to defend the Falklands, and these are understandable strategic goals, but London should fixate much more on the local waters near Britain and Europe until further notice and leave the farther afield areas to the Americans.

“France also, with its submarine fleet, could augment the British in these protective measures against Russian attempts to cut undersea cables.”

While NATO is now scrambling to come up with a response to the Nord Stream incident, which it has called “deeply concerning”, Mr Weichert also urged the military alliance to “organise a proper naval defence” to defend more undersea pipelines as the sabotage of the Baltic Sea systems was just a “test run” by the Russians, he claimed.

And he argued that the Royal Navy has had a long time to prepare for an incident like this, having known about Russia’s capabilities in this area “since the Cold War”.

READ MORE: Putin’s nuclear threat to Ukraine may not be a bluff, advisor says

He told Express.co.uk: “The navy has been aware of Russian capabilities and intentions as they relate to the undersea cables going back to the Cold War.

“The Western navies and the Russian Navy both are skilled at tapping and/or destroying those capabilities. The difference is, that in the post-Cold War era, President Vladimir Putin has fixated on enhancing his navy’s capability to threaten those systems whereas the Western alliance has allowed their abilities to adequately defend those lines to wither on the vine.

The problem facing the West is an imbalance of forces on this particular issue. It’s not totally hopeless but there simply aren’t enough eyes to be able to fully and reliably protect the undersea capabilities from Russian sabotage.”

And if Putin did target the UK’s network, he would have nearly 60 undersea internet cables connecting Britain to the rest of the world. 

DON’T MISS 
Putin ‘hanging on by fingernails’ as nuke expert warns of attack [INSIGHT]
Octopus Energy hands millions lifeline with £10m heat pump plan [REVEAL] 
Royal Hall of the first East Anglian Kings unearthed in Suffolk [REPORT] 

 

According to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, 97 percent of all global intercontinental data is carried via undersea network cables. In the UK, some of these only stretch as far as Ireland, such as the 80-mile CeltixConnect cable to Ireland. 

But others, like the 8,000-mile Tata TGN-Atlantic, extend all the way to the US. Mr Weichert has previously to Express.co.uk that “the UK is extremely vulnerable” to an attack from Russia as  “large clusters of cables exist near or within the UK, making UK territorial waters a prime target for Russian meddling”.

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 internet cables link Europe and the US.

And in August 2021, Russia’s Yantar vessel, which was built to carry out clandestine missions, was spotted near the Donegal-Mayo coastline by Ireland’s network of subsea cables.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.