Dutch intelligence warns Russia may be preparing to sabotage offshore wind, gas and cable infrastructure in North Sea

Dutch General and Military Intelligence and Security Services (AVID and MVID) have sent a letter to the government together with an update on the latest insights into activities being covertly conducted by Russia, including those that are potentially being carried out in preparation for sabotage of the Dutch energy infrastructure in the North Sea.

Illustration; Borssele 1 & 2 offshore wind farm in the Netherlands; Photo source: Ørsted

On 20 February, MVID and AVID warned that it has information on Russia mapping the country’s North Sea infrastructure, including gas pipelines, offshore wind farms, and internet cables.

In a publication issued to the government, the Dutch intelligence services state the activities that Russia is undertaking regarding the offshore energy and telecommunications system indicate espionage and preparatory work for disruption and sabotage.

Such a physical threat to other vital sectors, such as drinking water and energy supply, is also conceivable, as long as such attacks can be carried out covertly, according to MVID and AVID, who called on organisations responsible for organising and implementing security measures to increase the resilience of the vital systems in the Netherlands.

The intelligence agencies under the Dutch Ministry of Defence further noted Russia’s effort to disrupt the European energy market by limiting its gas supply to Europe, increasing shortage in the European market, and increasing gas prices.

“For Moscow, energy supply is a means to achieve political goals. Since the war in Ukraine started, Moscow has put its political interests above the economic interest involved in its gas exports. Gazprom, the Russian state-owned company responsible for exporting Russian gas to Europe, blames the declining supply on sanctions and the closure of the Nord Stream pipeline. However, the supply reduction is unlikely to have such a practical cause alone”, MVID and AVID state.

The agencies said Russia was pursuing a deliberate strategy to put maximum pressure on Europe through gas dependency with the ultimate goal of persuading Europe to end support for Ukraine and end sanctions against Russia.

Nevertheless, Russia sees that its position as an energy power is fragile in the longer term and, by cutting off the energy supply, it is trying to bring Europe to its knees before the EU is able to permanently dispose of Russia as an energy supplier, the Dutch state intelligence says. As a result of the Russian strategy for the Netherlands, energy bills and inflation will rise in 2022, partly as a result of this, according to MVID and AVID.