NATO allies have come together to help Norway protect its critical gas and electricity infrastructure, which could be at risk of an attack from Russia following the leaks in the Nord Stream pipelines. Last week, a number of leaks were discovered in both the Nord Stream 1 and 2, both of which could transport massive quantities of natural gas from Russia to Germany through undersea pipelines in the Baltic Sea. Many experts agreed that a rupture of that scale was likely an act of sabotage, which then led to a massive finger-pointing game between the US and Russia, each blaming the other for blowing up the pipeline. Regardless of who is really responsible, fears have grown that Vladimir Putin could soon target other gas pipelines and electricity cables, including ones flowing from Norway to UK.
A spokesperson for Norway’s Ministry of Defense told Upstream that the Norwegian Armed Forces are working with European NATO allies are to develop “a coordinated” response in securing critical energy infrastructure on the Norwegian Continental Shelf (NCS).
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.
The country is also the third largest exporter of natural gas in the world, trailing behind Russia and Qatar, which is why it was dubbed the “battery of Europe”.
Such a leak 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 expected to import 1.4 GW from Norway.
In a press conference last week, Norway’s Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store announced that the country would ramp up its military presence in the nearby seas, and welcomed proposed contributions from NATO allies.
NATO member states, which include Germany, France and the United Kingdom, have vowed to support Norway’s military, particularly in light of its importance as Europe’s key pipeline gas supplier.
Mr Store added: “We are in dialogue with our ally to increase our presence in the Norwegian sector, and have accepted contributions from Germany, France and Great Britain.”
This comes as the UK’s Royal Navy sent a frigate to the North Sea on Monday to protect the Nord Stream pipeline, in a bid reassure partners after the pipelines in the Nord Steam network burst near Swedish and Danish waters.
READ MORE: Putin may target Norway pipelines that supply 60% of UK gas
Norway’s Armed Forces said added that “the Royal Norwegian Navy is in dialogue with its partners to coordinate security and readiness measures in our common waters. Several maritime assets are put in force to support the heightened security and readiness on the Norwegian shelf.”
The Defense Ministry’s spokesperson told Upstream that “the Norwegian Armed Forces have already enhanced their presence in relevant geographic areas and are conducting patrols with assets on land, in the air, at sea, underwater and in cyberspace.
“Allies have also offered support. We welcome these offers, and the details are now being worked out in a coordinated effort. It is too early to specify further at this point.”
Speaking to Express.co.uk, John Baldwin from CNG Services suggested that the Nord Stream leak was likely caused by Russia, and was meant to be a show of strength, warning that Putin could destroy other Western pipelines just as easily.
He said: “The worry is obviously that he could have put similar mines around the Norwegian gas pipelines that come to the UK and the UK pipelines and cables.
“That’s almost like the message isn’t it, ‘I’ve mined my own pipes in international waters, but I might as well have mined your pipes and you’ll never find those mines. If you keep helping Ukraine one day they might go and you won’t have any gas at all.’
Mr Baldwin continued: “They could do that, maybe that’s why they have done it to their own pipelines, to send a sort of signal really.”
However, if Russia isn’t to blame for the leaks, fears of an attack on UK pipelines would get even larger, as Putin may blame the West and retaliate by targeting the UK’s pipelines.