Russia Could Threaten Internet Cables in Underwater Attacks—Navy Chief

Russia's growing underwater program could threaten cables lying in the sea and risk the world's communications networks, the head of Britain's armed forces has warned.

Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, 56, told The Times of London about his fears over the "phenomenal increase in Russian submarine and underwater activity" over the last two decades, which he warned was "more than about submarines."

He said Russia's underwater program intended to "put at risk and potentially exploit" the undersea cables that provide the world's "real information system."

"That is where predominantly all the world's information and traffic travels," he told the paper. "Russia has grown the capability to put at threat those undersea cables and potentially exploit those undersea cables."

When asked if an attempt by Russia to cut the cables would be an act of war, he replied, "potentially, yes."

Modern underwater lines carry thousands of miles of optical fibre cables to carry digital data, including internet services.

Admiral Sir Tony Radakin
Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff is pictured on October 13, 2021 in Winchester, England. He told the Times about his concerns over Russia's underwater program. Max Mumby/Getty

In his first interview since since taking over the role, Radakin, a former head of the Royal Navy was echoing a warning made in 2017 by his predecessor, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, who earlier warned seabed communication cables were "vulnerable" to Russian military assets.

British ships have been protecting underwater cables from Russian submarines in areas like the North Atlantic.

A collision between a British Type 23 frigate, HMS Northumberland, and a Russian submarine in 2020 was reported this week, sparking speculation about the extent of Russian cable-mapping activity. The collision was filmed in newly released footage by a documentary crew.

Radakin also pointed to Russia's ever growing hypersonic and long-range missile capability. In December, Russia test-fired about ten new Tsirkon hypersonic cruise missiles from a frigate and two more from a submarine, Russian state agencies reported.

This week, North Korea claimed to have successfully tested a hypersonic missile while China has also tested a number of hypersonic missiles.

Radakin said that the U.K. lagged behind other countries in missile capability telling the paper, "we haven't (got them) and we must have."

His comments come amid escalating tensions between Russia and Nato of which the U.K. is a member.

The U.K has joined the U.S. in sounding the alarm over the deployment of up to 100,000 Russian troops by Russia's border with Ukraine.

Radakin, who last month had a phone call with his Russian counterpart, General Valery Gerasimov, said from "a military point of view, the whole situation is deeply worrying."

Talks between Moscow, the U.S. and NATO are scheduled for next week but the alliance's general secretary Jens Stoltenberg said it needs to prepare "for the possibility that diplomacy will fail."

Vladimir Putin onboard a Russian navy vessel.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is seen prior to driving to the bottom of the Gulf of Finland aboard of C-Explorer 3.11 Submersible to explore the Soviet Shchuka-class submarine Shch-308 sunken during World War II near the Island of Gogland on July 27, 2019 in Moscow. Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images