The U.S. is worried over Russian submarine activity around undersea data cables, reports the New York Times, leading to concerns that Putin may attempt to physically sever the communication networks.
There is no evidence yet that Russia has tampered with cables according to U.S. officials, but they are wary of Russian presence around these cables, especially in areas that are hard to reach.
It’s not uncommon for undersea Internet cables to be damaged, whether it’s by natural disasters or parts of vessels like anchors, but they can be fixed relatively easily. However, the U.S.’s main concerns is over potential tampering with data cables that are much deeper and thus harder to reach and fix.
Russia could possibly attack these cables in response to a conflict or target secret cables that are used the U.S. military. Undersea cables have been targeted in the past by the U.S. and Russia during the Cold War as a means to tap them for valuable intelligence.
“I’m worried every day about what the Russians may be doing,” said Rear Adm. Frederick J. Roegge, a U.S. Navy commander in the Pacific.
The Pentagon has seen activity of the Russian ship Yantar sailing in waters near Cuba, close to the site where one cable lands at Guantanamo Bay. The Navy stated that this ship has the facilities to sever cables.
“The level of activity is comparable to what we saw in the Cold War,” according to a senior European diplomat quoted by the Times, which also reports that Norway, a NATO country, is looking for assistance in tracking Russian vessels too.
A Navy spokesperson, however, declined to comment on any specifics, citing the classified nature of the information.