Gavin Williamson Announced As New Defence Secretary
British defence secretary, Gavin Williamson. Carl Court/Getty Images

The British defence secretary says Russia poses a threat to the UK and it does not necessarily entail plans to invade British shores.

Rather Gavin Williamson believes that the Kremlin is targeting British infrastructure and energy supply in a bid to cause "panic" and chaos.

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Williamson said Russia was spying on Britain's critical national infrastructure and had its eyes on energy lines that allowed the UK to trade gas and electricity with the continent.

"They are looking at these things because they are saying these are the ways that we can hurt Britain.

"If we lost our interconnectors, which would be something that we know that they are looking at, there would be three million homes without electricity. In a few years time there will be eight million homes that would be dependent.

"If you could imagine the domestic and industrial chaos that this would actually cause. What they would do is cause the chaos and then step back."

He said that Russia could target the UK through a cyber attack or from undersea activity.

"What they are looking at doing is trying to spot vulnerabilities, because what they want to do is they want to know how to strike it, they want to know how they can kill infrastructure and by killing that infrastructure that means hurting Britain and the British people," he told the paper.

The sentiments somewhat echo those made by the chief of the defence staff, Sir Stuart Peach who said that British undersea internet cables were vulnerable to a Russian attack.

He said that Britain must keep pace with Russia's modernised Navy which is often seen near under-sea communications cables in the Atlantic Ocean.,

Williamson is negotiating potential cuts to the British military as the government seeks to save around £20bn over the next decade. Reports in December suggested that the government would focus its funding on cyber rather than battlefield warfare.