he targets will not be limited to Ukraine. In his declaration of a new conflict with the West in his rant at the September 30 rallye, Putin recognized a new phase of hybrid warfare. Its targets are probably global.
“Everything is a weapon and everywhere is the battlefield,” says Christopher Donnelly, senior analyst for Russia and the Soviet Union, describing the new mode of asymmetric warfare. A dozen mysterious attacks or interference with infrastructure systems, involving gas pipelines in the North Sea and the Baltic, submarine cables and communications, and the shutdown of the management of the systems of a center food retailer in Texas.
The explosions that punctured the two main Nord Stream gas pipelines from Russia, just off the Baltic island of Bornholm, are now considered sabotage. They were most likely caused either by mines on a time-delay fuse, or by remote detonation, or by a direct attack from Russian sabotage squads.
Russia has a dedicated submarine commando, headed by the Main Directorate of Deep Sea Research, known as GUGI, which operates independently within the Ministry of Defense in Moscow and has links with the main security service, the FSB. Gugi has a specialized surveillance vessel, the Yantar, and uses two underwater “motherships”. In turn, they can launch mini-submarines for investigative and sabotage operations.
The Yantar has been active in the English Channel, and its recent appearance in waters where vital transatlantic cables and pipelines land has prompted the Irish Ministry of Defense to sound the alarm. The same goes for the Norwegian government, which is concerned about increasing Russian espionage, including drone overflights, around its main gas terminals and command centers in Karste and Kolisnes. Norway has reported a mysterious “disappearance” of lengths of communications cable from its waters.
Britain is urged to be more vigilant in safeguarding its offshore oil and gas installations and to increase patrols by submarines, surface ships and surveillance aircraft.
The GUGI Command is based in Olenya Bay near Murmansk in the Arctic. There, they are in charge of the test program for the Russian ballistic nuclear torpedo Poseidon, carried by their new submarine, the Belogrod. The submarine was last tracked in the Barents Sea and has since been lost to Western trackers.
The spread of Putin’s new version of hybrid warfare has made resilience a number one priority for NATO and allied forces. Recently, Policy Exchange, the leading conservative think tank, reported that the world’s submarine cable networks include 213 independent cable systems, fiber optic lines stretching 545,018 miles. They carry 97% of global communications, including $10 trillion in financial transactions per day.
Western security and intelligence forces must very quickly rethink resiliency exercises to protect vital infrastructure, at home and abroad. This weekend, the overhead cables of the German railways were sabotaged. The UK must send more patrols to platforms and terminals in the North Sea.
The world was surprised in 2014 by Putin’s stealthy annexation of Crimea by teams of “little green men”, military infiltrators. The threat now comes from the “little blue men”, the sabotaging submarine commandos of the GUGI Command – a far more deadly force.