Russian subs’ focus on undersea data cables spooks NATO

The apparent Russian focus on the undersea cables, which provide internet and other communications connections to North America and Europe, could give the Kremlin the power to sever or tap into vital data lines.

BRUSSELS — Russian submarines have substantially stepped up activity around undersea data cables in the North Atlantic, part of a more aggressive naval posture that has driven NATO to revive a Cold War-era command, according to senior military officials.

The apparent Russian focus on the cables, which provide internet and other communications connections to North America and Europe, could give the Kremlin the power to sever or tap into vital data lines, the officials said. Russian submarine activity has increased to levels unseen since the Cold War, they said, sparking hunts in recent months for the elusive watercraft.

“We are now seeing Russian underwater activity in the vicinity of undersea cables that I don’t believe we have ever seen,” said U.S. Navy Adm. Andrew Lennon, commander of NATO’s submarine forces. “Russia is clearly taking an interest in NATO and NATO nations’ undersea infrastructure.”

NATO has responded with plans to re-establish a command post, shuttered after the Cold War, to help secure the North Atlantic. NATO allies are also rushing to boost anti-submarine warfare capabilities and to develop advanced submarine-detecting planes.

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Britain’s top military commander also warned that Russia could imperil the cables that form the backbone of the modern global economy. The privately owned lines, laid along some of the same corridors as the first transatlantic telegraph wire in 1858, carry nearly all of the communications on the internet, facilitating trillions of dollars of daily trade. If severed, they could snarl the web. If tapped, they could give Russia a valuable picture of the tide of the world’s internet…

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