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Who Wants To Blow Up Poland's Largest Oil Terminal?
Last weekend the Polish Coast Guard rescued three men found drifting in a small boat in the Baltic Sea in the middle of the night. The men could not get the motor started on their boat. They claimed to be diving for amber on the sea floor. While this is something that is actually done in this area, it is not done during hours of darkness. No amber was found on the boat.
What was found was a great deal of expensive diving equipment. This included an underwater scooter used by divers and by special operations forces to cover long distances underwater.
The three men claimed to be Spanish nationals. Only one was carrying identification. All gave phone numbers which subsequently turned out to be inactive. One of the numbers did not even have the correct number of digits.
Nonetheless, the Coast Guard released the three men. They have all since vanished.
“The incident is worth investigating,” Adam Jawor, a former counter-intelligence officer, told InfoSecurity24.pl. According to Jawor, the men’s explanations “sound bizarre, to say the least.” “It is important to note that there are a number of critical infrastructure sites in the Gulf of Gdańsk,” he added, noting that the context of the ongoing war in Ukraine is also important.
In fact, Gdansk is the key entry point for oil and coal imports to Poland. Germany also relies heavily on oil coming in via this route. Expansion of the Naftoport facility in Gdansk has been a major part of the Polish effort to wean itself off Russian oil.
It has long been recognized that Naftoport could be a target for sabotage by Russian forces. Cutting off the flow of oil to Poland and Germany through this facility would significantly impact NATO’s efforts to end the European importation of Russian oil. Particularly, right now as both Poland and Germany contemplate sending main battle tanks to Ukraine, an interruption of energy supplies to both countries in the dead of winter would be severely damaging and very much in Russia’s interests.
Concern over attacks on Naftoport by divers is so intense in fact that the facility operates something called the AquaShield™ Diver Detection Sonar (DDS). This sonar system is part of an overall Harbor Surveillance Command and Control system guarding all waterways leading to the terminal.
The manufacturer’s promotional material on AquaShield provides this information:
“Designed with a single purpose in mind – superior performance – the AquaShield is the most advanced and capable underwater site security system available.
The design concept of its operation is to defeat the combat doctrine of underwater asymmetric threats such as naval commandos and terrorist frogmen. AquaShield is a fifth-generation Diver Detection Sonar (DDS) system, incorporating years of experience accumulated from continuous operation at multiple sites around the world. The system is currently operational in the water, protecting naval bases, energy terminals, commercial ports, and other high-value assets from underwater intrusion. Its unique modular design enables tailoring of the system to customer requirements and site-specific geography. The AquaShield offers a very long range of detection for even the weakest of targets, and can easily handle over 1,000 targets simultaneously….”
This is not the kind of system you put in place unless you are taking the threat of sabotage from sophisticated underwater teams very seriously.
All of this is made that much more significant by the fact the location where the three divers were found is very close to the site where a new floating natural gas terminal is to be constructed. This terminal will include a regasification unit. That means when LNG tankers carrying super-cooled natural gas dock at this terminal the gas will be regasified and then pumped to Polish cities via a connecting pipeline. Needless to say, a floating terminal filled with natural gas would make a tempting sabotage target.
As of this writing what precisely the three divers were up to remains unclear. We also don’t know who if anyone was behind their actions. Any reasonable analysis of the information available, however, has to suggest strongly that these men were conducting initial casing in advance of a Russian special operations attack on Naftoport or other facilities in the area.
When the Nord Stream pipelines were blown up months ago there was strong suspicion that this action was taken by the United States to remove the lever of Russian natural gas from the equation and force Europe to wean itself off dependence on Russia for energy. We noted at the time that this action was highly unlikely to go unanswered.
“An attack on the Russian pipelines in the Baltic by the United States will not go unanswered. Putin will not sit back and passively absorb the damage done. He will hit back. He will direct his own very capable intelligence and special operations people to select a target that hurts us, and then in the same deniable way, he will strike.”
We stand by that analysis. The administration in Washington continues to stumble forward under the impression that you can play at war and the enemy will never retaliate. We can send billions of dollars to Ukraine, enable strikes on Russian soil and generally keep pouring jet fuel on a fire and never pay a price. It doesn’t work that way.
Who wants to blow up Poland’s largest oil terminal? I think we all know the answer to that question.
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