A day after committing to stronger ties in the wake of the Ukraine war, NATO and the European Union launched a task force aimed at boosting the protection of critical infrastructure.
Announcing the move on Wednesday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said there was a need to “confront” a new type of threat following last year’s attacks on the Nord Stream gas pipelines and Moscow’s “weaponising of energy”.
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“Our experts from NATO and the European Union will work hand-in-hand to identify key threats to our critical infrastructure, to look at the strategic vulnerabilities that we do have,” she said in Brussels, speaking alongside NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
Russia’s foreign ministry has said the push for greater cooperation between the bodies signals the EU’s “complete subordination” to NATO, the US-led military alliance.
On Tuesday, the EU and NATO signed a joint declaration, citing the “gravest threat to Euro-Atlantic security in decades”.
“We will further mobilise the combined set of instruments at our disposal, be they political, economic or military, to pursue our common objectives to the benefit of our one billion citizens,” their statement said.
Moscow has regularly accused NATO of fomenting the war in Ukraine.
Nikolai Patrushev, a top Russian security official, said on Tuesday that the conflict was “not a clash between Moscow and Kyiv” but a “confrontation between Russia and NATO, and above all, the United States and Britain”.
Nord Stream attacks
Von der Leyen said the task force announced on Wednesday would propose security solutions related to transport, energy, digital and space infrastructure.
Moscow and Western countries have traded accusations over September’s blasts along the Nord Stream pipelines, which run under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany, but neither side has presented evidence of the other’s culpability.
NATO has increased naval deployments in the region following the explosions, which officials in Sweden and Denmark are investigating.
“Resilience and the protection of critical infrastructure are a key part of our joint efforts, as we have seen both with [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin’s weaponising of energy and … the sabotage of the North Stream pipelines,” Stoltenberg said on Wednesday.
“We want to look together at how to make our critical infrastructure, technology and supply chains more resilient to potential threats and to take action to mitigate potential vulnerabilities.”