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A Russian attack on undersea internet cables “would have catastrophic consequences”

The UK and its NATO allies are stepping up efforts to protect undersea internet cables from the Russian navy, the UK’s most senior military official has revealed.

Sir Stuart Peach told the Royal United Services Institute yesterday that a move by Russia to cut the cables would “immediately and potentially catastrophically affect” the economy.

His remarks follow the publication of a report earlier this month warning that “the arteries upon which the Internet and our modern world depends have been left highly vulnerable”.

The report, written by Conservative MP Rishi Sunak for Policy Exchange, said “an increasingly bellicose Russian naval presence” increased the threat of the vulnerabilities being exploited.

Governments have taken a “less active role” in the communications infrastructure than in other strategic industries because they are owned by companies, not nations, the report added.

Sir Stuart said Britain and its NATO allies would be prioritising missions to protect the internet cables: “This sounds like a rerun of old missions. Actually […] it’s very very important to understand how important that mission is to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.”

“Because Russia in addition to new ships and submarines, continues to perfect both unconventional capabilities and information warfare and there is a new risk to our way of life which is the vulnerability of the cables that criss-cross the seabeds,” he added.

“Can you imagine a scenario where those cables are cut or disrupted which would immediately and potentially catastrophically affect both our economy and other ways of living if they were disrupted? Therefore we must continue to develop our maritime forces with our allies with whom we are working very closely to match and understand Russian fleet modernisation,” he said.