Norwegian oil and gas workers normally do not see anything more threatening than North Sea waves crashing against the steel legs of their offshore platforms, but lately they have noticed a more troubling sight: unidentified drones buzzing in the skies overhead.
With Norway replacing Russia as Europe’s main source of natural gas, military experts suspect the uncrewed aircraft are Moscow’s doings. They list espionage, sabotage and intimidation as possible motives for the drone flights.
The government has sent warships, coastguard vessels and fighter jets to patrol around the offshore facilities. The Norwegian Home Guard stationed soldiers around onshore refineries that also were buzzed by drones.
Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store has invited the navies of NATO allies Britain, France and Germany to help address what could be more than a Norwegian problem.
Precious little of the offshore oil that provides vast income for Norway is used by the country’s 5.4 million inhabitants. Instead, it powers much of Europe.
“The value of Norwegian gas to Europe has never been higher,” Royal Norwegian Naval Academy researcher Stale Ulriksen said. “As a strategic target for sabotage, Norwegian gas pipelines are probably the highest value target in Europe.”
Closures of airports, and evacuations of an oil refinery and a gas terminal last week due to drone sightings caused huge disruptions. With winter approaching in Europe, there is worry the drones might portend a bigger threat to the 9,000 kilometers of gas pipelines that spider from Norway’s sea platforms to terminals in Britain and mainland Europe.
Since the start of the war in Ukraine on Feb. 24, EU countries have scrambled to replace their Russian gas imports with shipments from Norway. The suspected sabotage of the Nordstream I and II pipelines in the Baltic Sea last month happened a day before Norway opened a new Baltic pipeline to Poland.
Amund Revheim, who heads the North Sea and environment group of the Norwegian Police Service’s southwest district, said his team interviewed more than 70 offshore workers who have spotted drones near their facilities.
“The working thesis is that they are controlled from vessels or submarines nearby,” Revheim said.
Winged drones have a longer range, but investigators considered credible a sighting of a helicopter-style bladed model near the Sleipner platform in a North Sea gas field 250km from the coast.
Police have worked closely with military investigators who are analyzing marine traffic. Some platform operators have reported seeing Russian-flagged research vessels in close vicinity.
Revheim said no pattern has been established from legal marine traffic and he is concerned about causing unnecessary, disruptive worry for workers.
However, Ulriksen said the distinction between Russian civilian and military ships is narrow and the reported research vessels could fairly be described as “spy ships.”
The arrest of at least seven Russian nationals caught either carrying or illegally flying drones over Norwegian territory has raised tensions.
On Wednesday, the same day a drone sighting grounded planes in Bergen, Norway’s second-biggest city, the Norwegian Police Security Service took over the case from local officers, calling the possible espionage.
Russia’s embassy in Oslo on Thursday said that Norway was experiencing a form of “psychosis” causing “paranoia.”
Ulriksen said that is probably part of the plan.
“Several of the drones have been flown with their lights on,” he said. “They are supposed to be observed. I think it is an attempt to intimidate Norway and the West.”
The wider concern is that they are part of a hybrid strategy to intimidate and gather information on vital infrastructure, which could later be targeted for sabotage in a potential strike against the West.
“I do not believe we are heading for a conventional war with Russia,” Ulriksen said. “But a hybrid war. I think we are already in it.”
Michael Bloomberg last week apologized at a business forum hosted by the news agency he founded for remarks by former British prime minister Boris Johnson criticizing China as autocratic. The controversy highlights China’s influence in Asia and sensitivities about overt criticism of Beijing. Bloomberg, a former New York mayor who ran for president in 2020, apologized on Thursday at the Bloomberg New Economy Forum in Singapore, a business gathering whose speakers included Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan (王岐山) and whose delegates included Chinese businesspeople. “Some may have been insulted or offended last night by parts of the speaker’s remarks referencing certain countries and
POLAND-GERMANY RIFT: Warsaw’s response to Berlin over a NATO system that would increase the alliance’s involvement in the war came as Kyiv accused Russia of war crimes Anti-missile systems that Germany offered to send to Poland should instead go to Ukraine, the Polish government said on Thursday, a proposal that is likely a nonstarter for Berlin because it would significantly ratchet up NATO involvement in Ukraine. Poland’s surprising response to Berlin’s offer was welcomed by Ukraine, which is desperate to protect its airspace as barrages of Russian missiles have knocked out power across the country. German Minister of Defense Christine Lambrecht said that use of NATO defense systems outside its territory needs to be agreed by all member states. “It is important to us that Poland can rely on allies
STRONG LANGUAGE: The Turkish defense ministry posted a photograph online of an F-16 jet with the words: ‘Payback time. The scoundrels are being held to account’ Turkey launched airstrikes over northern regions of Syria and Iraq, the Turkish Ministry of National Defense said yesterday, targeting Kurdish groups that Ankara holds responsible for last week’s bomb attack in Istanbul. Warplanes attacked bases of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Syrian People’s Protection Units (YPG), the ministry said in a statement, which was accompanied by images of F-16 jets taking off and footage of a strike from an aerial drone. There was no immediate comment from either group. The ministry cited Turkey’s right to self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter in launching an operation it called Claw-Sword
MONEY-MAKING SCHEME: Some students said they were misled about study or work opportunities, or were not told that they were coming to a self-proclaimed republic Foreign students are big business in northern Cyprus, a tiny, breakaway statelet only recognized by Turkey, but some warn that university recruiters are selling “dreams” in the internationally and economically isolated territory. One Nigerian student, who asked to remain anonymous, said he expected to arrive in the country whose soccer teams compete in European tournaments. Instead, when he saw the currency was the embattled Turkish lira, he realized this was “not the Cyprus I thought it was.” The Mediterranean island is divided between the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus and a northern statelet established after Turkey launched a 1974 invasion in