The UK military is war-gaming a cyber-strike on Russia, in a scenario where Libya’s oil reserves are seized and a refugee crisis ensues, British media said. It wasn’t a tabloid report, so Russia’s Embassy asked for clarification.
The Sunday Times cited anonymous senior security sources, who said that London was concerned by the capability gap between the British and Russian militaries. The lack of conventional weapons makes a nuclear strike just about the only possible response by London to a Russian aggression, the report said.
“This is why cyber is so important; you can go on the offensive and turn off the lights in Moscow to tell them that they are not doing the right things,” a source told the paper.
The “not-right things,” according to the paper, may include occupying small islands belonging to Estonia in order to test if NATO was really eager to follow Article 5 of its treaty, which says an attack on one of its members means and aggression against the whole block.
Another scenario is that Russia may intervene in Libya in order to claim its oil and provoke a new refugee crisis in Europe, it may target a British “aircraft carrier with a nuclear-tipped torpedo.”
Cyberwarfare was singled out as the best deterrence against Moscow during the weekly, highly classified planning meetings at Whitehall, the Sunday Times reported.
The Russian Embassy to the UK commented on the report by urging the British government “to clarify its stance in view of the aggressive plans in cyberspace” revealed by the paper.
“A lack of a coherent response may serve as grounds to consider these statements credible,” it said.
The embassy added that the report by the Sunday Times was in line with the “unprecedented anti-Russia information campaign and spy hysteria” unleashed by Britain.
Moscow is concerned by “irresponsible” claims and the reported plans to target the infrastructure of Russian cities, the embassy said.
Last week, the UK accused Russian hackers of stealing emails from a UK television station in 2015; of attacking the World Anti-Doping Agency last year and of breaching the Democratic National Committee (DNC) during the US presidential election campaign in 2016.
The Netherlands also said that Russian spies had hacked the Wi-Fi network of chemical arms watchdog OPCW earlier this year, to disrupt the investigation of the Skripal poisoning.
Moscow has rejected the unsubstantiated accusations, with Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova calling them a product of someone’s “rich imagination.”