The UK and Norway are developing a strategic partnership to counter shared threats in the North Sea, including to undersea infrastructure.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Norwegian Defence Minister Bjorn Arild Gram have signed a statement of intent, agreeing to collaborate further on undersea capabilities to enhance North Atlantic security.

The UK Government says the growing use of the seabed for energy and communications purposes has resulted in increased opportunities for adversaries to threaten Western subsea critical national infrastructure.

NATO representatives recently expressed fears that Russia may have already placed mines on Europe's critical underwater infrastructure. There are worries that Vladimir Putin may sabotage pipelines and cables to punish Western nations for supporting Ukraine.

Mr Wallace said yesterday: “We are heightening our joint capabilities to protect Western critical national infrastructure on the seabed.

“The attack on the Nord Stream pipeline (in the Baltic) has determined even closer collaboration across our collective assets to detect and defend against subsea threats.

Shared interests

“With shared interests in the North Sea, the North Atlantic and the High North, regional security is central to the national security of both nations.

“This strategic partnership will continue to deepen defence ties between the two nations as they work together to protect and deter against subsea threats.”

The Norwegian Defence Minister added that it was important that democracies like the UK and Norway stood together when the international order was under pressure.

He went on: “The sabotage of the Nord Stream pipeline last year is a concrete reminder of what is at stake here. By working together, we can improve our ability to detect submarines, to counter mine threats and to protect critical infrastructure on the seabed.”

NATO allies are closely monitoring Russian vessels equipped with sensors that can collect electronic or acoustic information from the seabed.

A UK defence minister, Baroness Goldie, said last month that the country will maintain “vigilance” in the North Sea in response to Russian spy ships operating near offshore energy infrastructure.

Possible sabotage

A recent joint investigation by European broadcasters claimed a Russian vessel called the Admiral Vladimirsky was part of an operation to map undersea infrastructure for possible sabotage. According to the report, the ship had sailed around the Baltic Sea and the North Sea for a month.

Britain's response to any threat includes a P8 Poseidon maritime reconnaissance aircraft from RAF Lossiemouth, as well as a specialised undersea protection vessel.

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