There is a new worry among Western Europe’s NATO Allies according to Chief Marshall Stuart Peach, head of Britain’s military that the Russians could try to sever global underwater communications cables, potentially triggering catastrophic repercussions for the economy and way of life in the West.
According to military and government analysts, most of the global internet and telephone traffic that Western governments and economies rely so heavily on are carried by undersea cables that run on the seabeds of the world.
NATO has prioritized missions to protect these undersea lines of communication and is working “to match and understand Russian fleet modernization,” Chief Marshall Stuart Peach told the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), a defense think tank in London.
“Your emails, what you order on Amazon, your phone calls, online banking, it’s all done through undersea cables not through satellites,” said Peter Roberts, director of military sciences at RUSI.
Roberts warned that “the threat from Russia is very real” and that Russian tapping of submarine cables was already happening.
“In the school of Russian warfare at sea it’s not about aircraft carriers, it’s about the undersea domain,” said Roberts.
There have been reports of Russia damaging communication lines in the North Atlantic as early as the 1970s, according to Igor Sutyagin, an expert in U.S.-Russian affairs at RUSI, who spent more than a decade in Russian prison on charges of espionage for the United States.
The Russian Embassy in London dismissed the claims as sensationalist, however, a look at how they used electronic warfare when they occupied the Crimea is a textbook operation on what European leaders are fearing. They cut off the main cable connection from the Crimea to the outside world, and any non-Russian news or information was blocked from reaching civilians.
Russia annexed the Crimea during the upheaval in Ukraine and many experts are looking at how they handled the Crimea as the playbook for how they’d try to replicate the same tactics in a future conflict.
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