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1. James Meek:
Much has been made in Berlin, London, Paris and Washington of the Kremlin’s hints that it may use nuclear weapons, a Putin talking point that Elon Musk has been pushing hard. But non-nuclear weapons systems like the Shahed-136 (the Iranian-made drone) open up other, asymmetric, deniable possibilities for resentful, sanctioned governments. Most developed countries depend for their energy supply on a couple of dozen major sites – oil refineries, power stations, gas terminals. If an innocuous merchant ship passing through the Baltic or the North Sea had a handful of ordinary, secretly armed trucks lashed to its deck, would any Nato country notice? Would the drones be detected or intercepted? If they were launched and hit their targets, could it ever be proven where they originated?
As a threat to Europe, this is creative license. But using swarms of Shahed-136s and other forms of missile to destroy a country’s energy system, on the eve of winter, is exactly what Russia is doing to Ukraine. By damaging thermal power stations and electricity substations, Russia threatens Ukraine with a future that is dark, possibly cold and possibly without running water, given the essential role of electricity in water distribution. Factories will stop, lifts will fail and trams won’t run. Ukraine is repairing the damage as fast as it can, but it can’t bury its power stations underground. As I write, the authorities are pleading with Ukrainians to minimize electricity use, and have warned them to expect blackouts through the day. (Source: lrb.co.uk. italics mine)
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