- A British MP has warned that Russian leader Vladimir Putin is scouting out ways to attack the UK.
- His concerns come just after new reports found a fleet of Russian vessels spying on the North Sea.
- MP Bob Seely said sabotaging undersea cables in the area would cripple the UK if war breaks out.
New information that Moscow is sending ships to spy on the British coast shows that Russian leader Vladimir Putin is exploring ways to attack the UK and its European allies, said Conservative member of parliament Bob Seely.
“My fear is that Putin is gauging options to attack the West, should he wish to escalate, without triggering a NATO military response,” wrote Seely, the MP for the Isle of Wight, in a Thursday commentary for The Telegraph.
Seely is a former British army officer with a PhD in Russian military strategy.
Seely’s concerns were sparked by new reports that Russia has been conducting naval reconnaissance on NATO members on a massive scale.
A joint investigation by public broadcasters in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland on Wednesday revealed that a fleet of Russian boats disguised as fishing or research vessels have been spying in the North Sea, looking for ways to sabotage wind farms and undersea cables.
The covert operation also threatens UK energy and communications infrastructure, The Telegraph reported.
“There can be only one reason for this — to learn how to sabotage UK and European critical infrastructure in the event of a full-scale war with the West,” Seely wrote.
Seely added that Russia — and China — are preparing for war and that the UK is not ready for such a scenario.
“That does not mean that conflict will happen,” Seely wrote.
“But we must urgently recognize the extent of the threat to the current order,” he added.
For the last 20 years, Putin has actively sought ways to attack the West without leaving a clear cause for retaliation, said Seely.
“Could we really risk war on a suspicion? Putin knows this,” he wrote.
Sabotaging key infrastructure like fuel depots or underwater cables through illicit groups is one method, the MP suggested.
Seely, whose constituency covers the UK’s southernmost territory on the British coast, said the UK and its northern allies are “dangerously exposed at sea.”
One of his chief concerns is that much of the UK’s energy is supplied via undersea cables between Britain and Europe.
“There are more communications cables, about 70 in all, but a relatively small number of deep-sea sabotage operations could bring our world to a halt without a shot being fired,” he wrote.
Seely urged the UK to take new measures to protect undersea cables, saying it can “naturally lead” its allies in bolstering maritime defenses.
“All these sea-faring countries have a vested interest in preventing Russian ocean sabotage. But Britain’s history is unique and our naval experience unrivalled, especially among our northern European allies,” he wrote.
He warned that Western Europe’s “collective response” to Moscow’s aggression has, in the last 15 years, been “one of denial” and swayed by Russian influence.
“We have failed to see the trend, in Russia but also in China, because for too long our leaders naively assumed the rulers of those countries shared our own outlook and assumptions,” Seely wrote. “They do not.”
Seely, the Russian embassy in London and the Russian Ministry of Defense did not immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment sent outside regular business hours.