Why Is Russia Doing Naval Training Over the Undersea Cables Connecting the US and Europe?

Jeff Thompson, As Russia sends “peacekeeping forces” to the breakaway regions of Ukraine, one interesting tidbit you may not have heard of lately involves the Russian navy and Ireland. Just last month, the Russian navy geared up for an exercise just off the Irish coast near the town of Cork.

The exercise, which would have involved the launching of cannons and artillery, was to be held in a square section of water within Irish airspace and Ireland’s Exclusive Economic Zone. But what is even more interesting?

This exercise was to take place directly over the majority of the undersea cables that connect Europe and the United States via the internet.
As expected, Ireland wasn’t very happy about the ships.

Sinn Fein’s spokesman on defense, John Brady, said, “There are vessels entering Ireland’s exclusive economic zone which we don’t have the ability to monitor. We have no idea what is happening below the surface. We don’t know if devices are being fitted to these data cables or if they are being interfered with.”

Allegedly, after a group of Irish fishermen met with the Russian ambassador to Ireland, the training exercise was called off.

Simon Coveney is Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs. He had this to say about the matter:

“What’s interesting is that this exercise box is 170 nautical miles off the south coast of Ireland. Incidentally, so was a suspicious Russian trawler suspected of deploying submersibles back in July 2021, 170nm away. Could that previous event have been sub-surface reconnaissance? Others may recall that the Russians flew their ASW TU-142 Bears over that location in March 2020 too. Perhaps that was a subsurface signal mapping exercise? Testing reactions, or lack thereof?”

Have there been prior happenings over these undersea cables? It would appear so.

As Coveney pointed out, it was in 2021 that a Russian vessel known as a Yantar was spotted in the same region. Allegedly, this craft was outfitted with submersibles, both remote-operated and manned, that could have tampered with the undersea cables. It was hypothesized that “listening” devices could have been attached, monitoring internet traffic through the cables.

But this wasn’t the first time such activities had taken place here.

In early 2020, Russian agents of the GRU – a military intelligence agency – were sent to the same region. Their task? To map the cable locations.

According to other sources, as far back as 2017, one of these cables was actually cut by a Russian spy ship.
So, what happens if these undersea cables are cut?

Being approximately the size of a garden hose, these cables most certainly aren’t as difficult to cut as would be expected for something which crosses the world’s oceans. Yes, there’s the difficulty of accessing them underwater, but if that can be accomplished, the rest seems rather simple.

Approximately 97% of all intercontinental information travels by means of undersea cables scattered across the globe (through 428 of them, to be exact).

As expected, that’s a lot of data flowing through these undersea cables. If they didn’t work tomorrow, would that be a problem?

For starters, we need to consider that damage to these cables is relatively common. Every few days, one of these cables is harmed in some manner, usually by accident or by Mother Nature. On average, there are 200 of these events/year.

What happens if the internet goes down?

The point of all this is to bring up questions of preparedness. If the internet goes down because of some kind of tinkering with these cables, what are you likely to see? Communications problems, for starters. You wouldn’t be able to withdraw your money from the ATM (if you’re Canadian, you’re used to this). Banking may be impossible.

Your ability to pay for anything with a debit or credit card would likely be hampered. What would happen to the electric meter in your house if you had a smart meter? Would electricity still flow? Is the modern power supply dependent on the internet? We can get inklings of what this would look like here and here.

There are a lot of questions here, many of which are perhaps unknown. So, do what you can now to prepare. Make sure you have plenty of food and water. Have a communications plan with your loved ones so that you can stay in contact with them after a disaster. Be able to protect yourself and your family. Ireland can’t seem to do that and ends up with foreign ships in its backyard as a result.

This is just another example of where a general level of preparedness can help you to cover a host of potential problems – many of which you would have never even realized were possibilities. What are your thoughts on the matter, though? What is the most likely reason those ships were out there? Was it simply naval exercises? Was it something more? Let us know in the comments below.
About Jeff

Jeff Thompson is an avid fisherman who likes to spend time sailing on his boat and reading while at sea.

Russian CyberAttack Could Trigger Article 5 NATO Response, Says US Senator

The chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday elevated questions about whether a Russian cyberattack could trigger an Article 5 “collective defense” response from NATO and thus set off a broader war.

Sen. Mark Warner’s (D-Va.) comments to multiple news outlets come just after Russia launched a military attack on Ukraine and continued cyber attacks targeting Ukrainian government institutions.

Speaking on “CBS Mornings,” Warner referenced Russia’s 2017 “NotPetya” crippling cyberattack involving a single piece of malware and said a broader computer-based offensive by Moscow was certainly possible..

“If the Russians decide they’re going to turn off the power, turn off all the electricity all across Ukraine,” said Warner, that same attack could “very likely… turn off the power in eastern Poland, in eastern Romania.” That in turn could affect U.S. troops based in eastern Europe, for example, “if suddenly hospitals are shut down.”

In such a scenario, he continued, “we are suddenly in an area of hypothetically an Article 5 where one NATO country is attacked we all have to come to each other’s aid.”

Warner’s comments came the same day NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called Russian’s attack on Ukraine “a brutal act of war” and lamented that “peace in our continent has been shattered. We now have war in Europe, on a scale and of a type we thought belong to history.”

“NATO is the strongest alliance in history, and make no mistake we will defend every ally against any attack on every inch of NATO territory,” said Stoltenberg. “An attack on one ally will trigger a response from the whole alliance.”

In 2020, NATO Deputy Secretary Mircea Geoana said at an annual policy conference in Poland that the leadership of the military alliance had “agreed that a cyberattack could trigger Article 5 of our founding treaty, where an attack against one ally is treated as an attack against all.”

In his comments to CBS, Warner said the earlier NotPeya attack which “Russia launched against Ukraine ended up hitting American, European, and even Russian assets, [and] cost billions of dollars.” Now, “If Russia let 100 pieces [or],1,000 pieces of malware out [as] either an attack against NATO or even against Ukraine, that might bleed into NATO nations.”

“We are in totally unpredictable territory,” he said.

In later remarks on MSNBC‘s “Morning Joe,” Warner said that a fresh wave of sanctions expected by the U.S. and Europe later in the day could lead Russian President Vladimir Putin to launch “cyberattacks directly against the West and against the United States.”

Warner also discussed the issue in a Wednesday interview with Axios in which he said that “Putin’s been pretty clear that one of the first tools he would use to bring economic harm to NATO and America is cyber.”

“Play over that whole scenario, just at a larger level, and all the hypothetical conversations about what will constitute an act of war,” said Warner, “suddenly get very real.”

Putin, for his part, warned in a televised speech that “no one should have any doubts that a direct attack on our country will lead to the destruction and horrible consequences for any potential aggressor.”

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