It’s High Time to Step up the Protection of Europe’s Critical Maritime Infrastructure
After the truth about the Nord Stream pipeline explosion came to light, the whole world knows that the United States was behind the destruction of critical infrastructure. In fact, the destruction of infrastructure is not a new method to achieve and maintain U.S. control. Since the last century, the United States has recognized the important strategic value of critical infrastructure and has accumulated relevant experience in its combat. The Nord Stream pipeline is not the first target of attack by the United States, nor will it be the last. We should be wary of the United States using various means to gather information on critical infrastructure and strengthen protection of underwater infrastructure to prevent recurrences of similar incidents.
The United States Has “Extensive Experience” in Destroying Critical Infrastructure
In Nicaragua, the Sandinista National Liberation Front overthrew the dictatorship of the close U.S. ally Anastasio Somoza in 1979. Since then, the United States has tried to destabilize the political situation in Nicaragua by various means. The U.S. intelligence agency formed a special detachment, directed it several times to destroy oil storage facilities and pipelines of Nicaragua, and deployed mines in many ports to blow up oil tankers. The two most destructive attacks were on the fuel reserves in Corinto and Benjamin Zeledon ports. Approximately four million gallons of gasoline, diesel oil, and other fuels were destroyed, equivalent to about a week’s worth of the country’s consumption.
The means of sabotage by the United States in Nicaragua was exactly the same as that of the Nord Stream pipeline explosion. In addition, in the 1970s, the United States directed terrorists to destroy Chile’s infrastructure including power plants and electrical substations, and violently overthrew the democratically elected president Salvador Allende, plunging Chile into a long-term military dictatorship.
In recent years, the United States has turned its attention to the oil-producing country Venezuela. In 2020, the United States ordered agents to launch attacks on Venezuela’s Amuay refinery (one of the world’s largest, capable of processing up to 630,000 barrels of crude oil per day) and the 146,000 barrels per day El Palito refinery, in an attempt to cut off economic lifeline and eliminate the anti-U.S. regime.
Past events have shown that the United States is accustomed to eliminating anti-U.S. forces by destroying infrastructure. U.S. sabotage has caused irreparable damage to the target country, regardless of whether the ultimate goal can be achieved. The United States for the most part does not “have to” pay for its actions.
The Undersea Warfare Launched by the United States Is Still Going on
Behind the wanton destruction of critical infrastructure by the United States is the support of high-level combat capabilities. In fact, the United States has a long history of research on undersea warfare, focusing on training professional military personnel, developing sophisticated underwater weapons, and continuously upgrading combat systems. In 2016, the Washington Post reported that the U.S. Office of Naval Research is seeking to “build the Eisenhower highway network on the seabeds in the seven oceans.” Mathias Winter, head of the office, said the ultimate goal is to “have large-scale deployments of Unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) and build service stations underwater.” The U.S. military is gradually implementing this vision.
The UUV is the “highlight” of the arms competition between the major powers in recent years. It can perform multiple tasks such as anti-submarine, seabed mapping, and frontier reconnaissance. Few countries in the world have the ability to develop UUV, while the United States started earlier in this field and its technology is relatively mature. In January 2023, the U.S. Navy announced that it will soon begin the underwater testing of the first Orca XLUUV. The Orca is just one of several unmanned underwater vehicle projects underway by the Navy. Other projects in development include the large submarine-launched UUV Snakehead and the medium submarine-launched UUVs Razorback and Viperfish. The realization of the U.S. vision will boost its penetration into the marine environment of various countries.
In January 2023, Namibia announced that it had discovered in its waters a U.S. saildrone used to gather data underwater. At the same time, the U.S. military places a high priority on the training of combat divers. In addition to the famous Navy SEALs, there is a very small Army community, mostly made up of special operators, that goes through the Combat Diver Qualification Course to become combat divers. Business Insider reported in detail on the training process in February 2022.
International oil economist and author John Foster said the pipeline sabotage has opened a Pandora’s box of troubles and has endangered pipelines worldwide. It is clear who benefits. In the face of a complex and volatile international situation, critical infrastructure protection is more vital than ever. Underwater infrastructure is particularly attractive to attackers due to the difficulty of regulation and protection. The seabed internet cable between Henningsvær and Svolvær in Lofoten, Norway, was broken on October 4, 2022, and the cause of the damage is still unknown. In this regard, the Spanish Abésai published an article saying that the recent sabotage of the Nord Stream gas pipelines seemed a powerful symbolic action that exposed the vulnerabilities of the West, while the 475 undersea cables currently in existence that carry more than 95 percent of the world’s Internet traffic are the overlooked Achilles’ heel. Among them, the Euro-Atlantic area is the oldest undersea cable route and carries traffic between Europe and the United States with dozens of cables. Since most of the data is stored in data centers located in the United States, it can be said that the United States is the main “owner” of transatlantic communications and has the ability to control submarine cables.
The Nord Stream pipeline explosion was a wake-up call for Europe, which led many countries to scramble to improve security of highly vulnerable undersea pipelines and communications cables. On February 15, 2023, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced the creation of a Critical Undersea Infrastructure Coordination Cell at NATO Headquarters to protect critical underwater infrastructure, noting that further measures will be finalized at the next scheduled summit in Vilnius on July 11 and 12, 2023. The purpose of the U.S. promotion of the collection of information on other countries’ underwater infrastructure in the name of infrastructure protection in multilateral frameworks such as NATO is extremely obvious.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger famously stated: ‘‘To be an enemy of America can be dangerous, but to be a friend is fatal.’’ After the war was dragged into endless combat mode by the United States, no place or asset in the world is safe anymore. Chaos will ensue.