American officials are increasingly worried about the close proximity of certain Russian submarines and spy ships to undersea global communications and Internet cables, reported the New York Times on Monday.
The Times report suggests that if Russian military forces were to sever the fiber-optic cables, it could cut communications for much of the West.
“I’m worried every day about what the Russians may be doing,” Rear Admiral Frederick Roegge, who is the commander of the U.S. Navy’s submarine fleet in the Pacific, was quoted by the paper as saying.
— Jim Clancy (@ClancyReports) October 26, 2015
Cmdr. William Marks, a Navy spokesman in Washington, added: “It would be a concern to hear any country was tampering with communication cables; however, due to the classified nature of submarine operations, we do not discuss specifics.”
Other intelligence officials and commanders, who Times reporters talked to in private, said they’re worried about significantly increased Russian activity along routes of the cables. They noted Russian subs and ships from the North Sea to Northeast Asia and in waters near American shores.
“The level of activity,” a senior European diplomat told the Times, “is comparable to what we saw in the Cold War.”
However, cutting off the U.S. from the Internet is likely impossible, said Keir Giles, an associate fellow of the Russia and Eurasia Program at think tank Chatham House.
“I very much doubt that anyone would think of cutting off the U.S.,” he told the BBC. “It is only going to work in locations where the Internet geography is going to create a vulnerability in communications.”
After the Times published its report, a Russian official said Moscow has no plans to cut the cables.
“The United States increasingly resembles Sweden, often believing that Russian submarines are present in their territorial waters. Fear has many eyes. Although these data cables indeed exist, we will definitely not damage them,” Vladimir Komoyedov, the head of the Russian State Duma’s defense committee and former Black Sea Fleet commander, told Sputnik News.
Former Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Viktor Kravchenko said U.S. officials are worried because of increased activity among Russian submarines.