Russia ‘threat’ to undersea cables
The UK military has prioritised protection of undersea cables from an alleged Russian threat because if they were cut or disrupted it could have a “potentially catastrophic” effect on the economy.
Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach said the vulnerability of communication lines under the sea posed a “new risk to our way of life” as Moscow modernised its navy and targeted information warfare.
Deep-sea cables carry 97 per cent of global communications and US$10 trillion in daily financial transactions, according to the Policy Exchange think-tank.
Conservative MP Rishi Sunak recently said an attack on the undersea communications cables could provide a “crippling blow” to the UK’s security and economy.
His Policy Exchange study referred to the ease with which the Russians cut all digital communications to Crimea in 2014. Britain has subsequently sent 800 troops to Estonia’s border with Russia to bolster Nato’s eastern fringe.
Sunak said an attack could be carried out by a fishing trawler or submarine.
And US intelligence has reported Russian submarines “aggressively operating” near the Atlantic cables.
In November, Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre banned software by the Russian technology group Kaspersky Labs from being used by UK government institutions responsible for national security.
During his Royal United Services Institute lecture in Whitehall, Peach, the chief of defence staff, said: “In response to the threat posed by the modernisation of the Russian navy, both nuclear and conventional submarines and ships, we, along with our Atlantic allies, have prioritised missions and tasks to protect the sea lines of communication.
“This sounds like a re-run of old missions, actually, as I’m about to say, it is very, very important that we understand how important that mission is.
“Because Russia, in addition to new ships and submarines, continues to perfect both unconventional capabilities and information warfare.
“And there is a new risk to our way of life, which is the vulnerability of the cables that criss-cross the seabeds.
“Can you imagine a scenario where those cables are cut or disrupted, which would immediately and potentially catastrophically affect both our economy and other ways of living if they were disrupted?
“Therefore we must continue to develop our maritime forces with our allies, with whom we are working very closely, to match and understand Russian fleet modernisation.”
Russia’s navy is flexing its muscles. Picture credit: Kremlin