A Russian sneak attack could wreak havoc on Britain's internet, the head of the UK’s Armed Forces has warned.
Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, the newly appointed chief of the defence staff, says that by targeting vital undersea cables the Russian Navy could potentially cause a massive internet blackout – crashing international financial markets and bringing the Western world to its knees.
“There’s been a phenomenal increase in Russian submarine and underwater activity over the last 20 years,” he said.
As World War Three fears grow, Sir Tony added that President Putin had developed the capability to “put at risk and potentially exploit the world’s real information system, which is undersea cables that go all around the world”.
“That is where predominantly all the world’s information and traffic travels," the admiral added. “Russia has grown the capability to put at threat those undersea cables and potentially exploit those undersea cables”.
While some military experts see such an attack as a “bloodless” way of immobilising NATO forces ahead of a potential invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces, Sir Tony said that any attack of the cables would be perceived as an “act of war”.
He described the amassing of Russian forces on Ukraine’s border as “deeply worrying,” adding that he had outlined a number of “military choices” for ministers to respond to any potential invasion.
Sir Tony had a rare phone call with his Russian counterpart, General Valery Gerasimov, in December and said there were further talks planned for the coming week but added: “From a military point of view the whole situation is deeply worrying.”
A Royal Navy source told The Times that the undersea cables could be Russia’s first target in the event of hostilities breaking out.
The source said: “In a Third World War, would this be a particularly good way of making life difficult for us? Yes. That’s exactly why they are doing it.
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“If you take away cables, no one can make telephone calls, they then can’t make business deals, buy shares, and the economy will grind to a halt.”
Navy vessels make regular patrols to safeguard the cables, and it was reported earlier this week that the Type 23 frigate HMS Northumberland was on just such a mission when its sonar gear collided with a Russian submarine.
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