A Global War on Infrastructure

Sabotage against infrastructure as a United States' super-weapon

In its recent piece, The Columnist posited that the attacks on the Nord Stream pipeline connecting Russia and Germany had effectively rendered very dim any prospects of mending the relations between the two countries and made a major war in Europe all but unavoidable. 

From a historical perspective, attacks on critical infrastructure are hardly anything new. Ancient texts such as the books of the Old Testament contain references to an age-old tactic of backfilling water wells when fighting on foreign soil. Water sources could also be poisoned while elaborate irrigation systems were purposely destroyed.

And in more recent history, we have seen oil wells set on fire, gas and oil pipelines sabotaged, with threats of blowing up hydropower dams and nuclear power plants threatening millions of people with flooding or severe radiation exposure. One way or another, all these actions or threats either caused or could have caused local-scale emergencies.

The devastation of the Nord Streams has ushered in an era of infrastructure wars that would be fought on a truly global scale.

The acts of sabotage that led to the destruction of the Nord Stream pipelines have caused quite a stir among the Europeans and the Turks who depend on pipeline gas. German media and politically active bloggers launched an instant search for the culprits and even managed to find one. According to mainstream media outlets, it was Russia who was behind the attacks, while more balanced observers put the blame on the US.

Of particular note is Austria's uncharacteristic response to the incident: having condemned the "unreliability" of Russian gas deliveries, it ratcheted up unauthorised off-take of gas intended for Italy, in all but name perpetrating an act of theft, forcing Russia's Gazprom to stop shipping gas to Italy's Eni. According to Serbia's national media, the country's President Aleksandar Vucic  literally went ballistic. "I didn't know whether to cry or scream when I saw what happened on Nord Stream 2", President Vucic was quoted as saying. "Now imagine that happening somewhere in the Black Sea, or on the territory of Turkey or Bulgaria, and we'd run out of gas."

As reported by several Telegram channels, Turkey's reaction turned out to be much more practical. Among other things, its counterintelligence agency has taken steps to bolster security measures to better protect the TurkStream pipeline and its critical infrastructure. Turkey's special forces operatives are being urgently re-trained as full-time guards of the nation's power grid. As part of this effort, Ankara has pledged to deploy as many as 75,000 troops and send more than 2,000 units of specialised equipment as well as 45,000 motor vehicles to protect its power supply system within a one-month period.

A global war on infrastructure

The head of Turkish intelligence has ordered to step up monitoring of all British citizens arriving in Turkey, especially those on diplomatic passports, as well as of all British males aged 25 to 60.

In parallel with that, Turkey's Navy and NATO's group of ships operating in the Mediterranean and the Black seas are expected to step up control of offshore sections of the country's energy infrastructure, including those of its elements that are located in neutral waters.  

The potential destruction of TurkStream facilities and the shutdown of the pipeline running through Ukraine as a result of the war fought in the area could trigger an energy collapse in Europe and cause a full-blown European involvement in the hostilities and Europe's aggression in an attempt to gain access to the resources located in the Caspian Sea.

The pipeline infrastructure within Russia itself is equally vulnerable to potential missile strikes. An attack on pipeline hubs would also precipitate a disruption of supplies intended for gas users in Europe and throughout Russia's European part, where most of the country's manpower and manufacturing capacity are concentrated. As a result, the destruction or a threat of destruction of key gas pipelines has become yet another instrument of projecting one's global influence.

That said, acts of sabotage directed against other nations' gas transportation capacities could be just one of several avenues chosen for waging an infrastructure war. Out of a sudden, the Western media recalled a 1982 explosion that occurred on the Urengoy-Surgut-Chelyabinsk gas pipeline inside Russia. According to a 2004 book by former US Secretary of the Air Force Thomas Reed, "At the Abyss. An Insider's History of the Cold War", the incident resulted from a CIA-led operation.

In his book, Reed purports that as part of an operation codenamed The Farewell Dossier, the United States managed to add Trojan horse malware to computer chips used for gas pipeline control. After a few months of faultless operation, they triggered the most monumental non-nuclear explosion on the pipeline, causing billions of dollars' worth of damages and lost profits.

While in the early 1980s, sophisticated technologies such as these were exceptionally rare and gimmicky, these days, US-origin microchips ensure uninterrupted operation of basically all types of infrastructure systems, including power generation systems of all types, nuclear facilities, power grids, traffic control systems, defence industry facilities, etc., in Europe, Russia, China, and essentially in all countries and on all continents.

It would not, therefore, be too farfetched to assume that the United States would be technically capable of carrying out local and global strikes against critical infrastructures anywhere on the planet, causing unpredictable consequences for all of mankind.

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