The energy crisis offers a taste of the future war

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If a shortage of truck drivers can cause disruption and inconvenience nationwide, imagine the panic that could ensue if Britain’s national infrastructure were to suffer a truly catastrophic collapse.

Even though, as the government keeps reminding us, fuel reserves are plentiful, this has not prevented some people from engaging in antisocial behavior, behavior associated more with failed states than in front of gas stations. British service.

The scale of this self-inflicted crisis means that around 150 military personnel have now received emergency training to help replenish stocks. Yet, as our military leaders know only too well, the armed forces could be called upon to play a much more critical role in the event of a national disruption to our daily lives resulting from the action of an enemy state, as opposed to a massive overreaction from the UK public.

In the new era of warfare made possible by dramatic advances in technology, modern state-to-state conflicts are much more likely to be waged by attacking an enemy’s critical infrastructure than by staging a traditional assault on an enemy. the battlefield. Cutting off a country’s electricity and water supply, or crippling its financial services, could inflict infinitely more damage than a conventional military attack, and is much easier to undertake.

If a media report that simply raises the possibility of fuel shortages can trigger the panic buying scenes that were seen across Britain last week, it almost defies the imagination of how the public could react to real shortages caused by an enemy attack on our national infrastructure.

The prospect of widespread civil unrest brought on by such a catastrophic event is certainly a consideration taken very seriously by security officials. For this reason, there exists, deep in the bowels of the National Security Council in Whitehall, a detailed contingency plan that spells out precisely how the government would act in such circumstances, with troops deploying to British streets to maintaining order considered a serious possibility.

Launching attacks on national infrastructure to weaken the resistance of an enemy is not a new concept.

In the 6th century AD, the Goths blocked the aqueducts supplying Rome’s water supply in an attempt to hasten the demise of the Roman Empire – it worked – while the main purpose of the intensive bombing campaigns carried out during World War II was to weaken national resistance.

These days, such campaigns are more likely to take the form of carefully targeted cyber attacks that, with the flick of a computer key, can incapacitate key infrastructure operations in minutes.

The cyberattack on the main U.S. pipeline operator, Colonial Pipeline, earlier this year, which shut off half of the U.S. east coast’s fuel supply and briefly raised the prospect of severe shortages, exposed the vulnerability of the US energy infrastructure to hackers.

The culprits have been identified as a group of Russian cybercriminals called DarkSide, and although the Biden administration has absolved the Russian government of all blame, the prospect of an enemy state like Russia and China launching a similar attack on it. UK infrastructure is taken very seriously. at the highest levels of government.

One of the main conclusions of the integrated review recently released by Downing Street was to call for the creation of an integrated national cyber command center capable of countering and disrupting attacks on critical national infrastructure. Concerns about the potential threat posed by hostile states were also behind the government’s belated decision to ban Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei from building the country’s 5G network.

Emerging threats to UK national infrastructure are not limited to the cyber realm.

Defense Secretary Ben Wallace announced earlier this year that the Royal Navy would build a new surveillance vessel to protect critical submarine cables from attack, warning that Russia had taken a “deep interest” in the cables and that “the lights might go out.” if critical infrastructure was lost. Space is another area where hostile states are exploring ways to cripple their adversaries by destroying vital communications satellites.

These are just a few examples of the rapid pace of change occurring in modern warfare, presenting a huge challenge to the military as it seeks to adapt to the bewildering array of new threats facing the country. .

Protecting Britain’s critical infrastructure from hostile states will certainly be at the forefront of Boris Johnson’s mind as he conducts the final talks this week with high-ranking military personnel seeking to become the next chief of the forces. British armies. The appointment of the next British Chief of Defense Staff is expected by the end of the week, with the successful candidate likely the candidate with the best plan to keep the lights on.


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