Science

Putin can 'disconnect' UK from rest of world as 60 undersea cables 'extremely vulnerable'


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The huge network, mapped by TeleGeography, shows the cables connected to Britain that keep the internet running and let’s the UK communicate with the rest of the world. According to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, 97 percent of all global intercontinental data is carried via undersea network cables. In the UK some only stretch as far as Ireland, like the 80-mile CeltixConnect cable to Ireland, while others, like the 8,000 mile Tata TGN-Atlantic, extend all the way to the US.

But according to Brandon Weichert, geopolitical expert and author of Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower, the UK has done little to protect its cable network.

And the number one aggressor could be Vladimir Putin, given that Britain’s support for Ukraine amid the war has sent tensions with Russia soaring.

Mr Weichert told Express.co.uk: “It is my contention that Russia absolutely will attempt to either cut or tap into those undersea cables if the crisis in Ukraine continues or escalates.

“The UK is extremely vulnerable to this kind of attack. As you see from those cable maps, large clusters of those cables exist near or within the UK, making UK territorial waters a prime target for Russian meddling.”

Back in 2018, Chancellor Rishi Sunakproduced a report for the Policy Exchange think-tank warning that Russia is “aggressively operating” in the Atlantic, where cables link Europe and the US.

Putin and the UK's network of undersea cables

Almost 60 cables connect the UK to the rest of the world (Image: Getty/Teleography )

Subsea cable

97 percent of all global intercontinental data is carried via undersea network cables. (Image: Getty )

But according to Brandon Weichert, geopolitical expert and author of Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower, the UK has done little to protect its cable network.

And the number one aggressor could be Vladimir Putin, given that Britain’s support for Ukraine amid the war has sent tensions with Russia soaring.

Mr Weichert told Express.co.uk: “It is my contention that Russia absolutely will attempt to either cut or tap into those undersea cables if the crisis in Ukraine continues or escalates.

“The UK is extremely vulnerable to this kind of attack. As you see from those cable maps, large clusters of those cables exist near or within the UK, making UK territorial waters a prime target for Russian meddling.”

Back in 2018, Chancellor Rishi Sunakproduced a report for the Policy Exchange think-tank warning that Russia is “aggressively operating” in the Atlantic, where cables link Europe and the US.

READ MORE: UK embarrassment laid bare: US hid details of NUKING British satellite

Cable map

“Cutting those cables would be catastrophic.” (Image: TeleoGeography)

And in August 2021, Russia’s Yantar vessel, built to carry out clandestine missions, was spotted near the Donegal-Mayo coastline by Ireland’s network of subsea cables.

Companies like Facebook, Twitter, Amazon and Google rely on the cables to transmit vast amounts of data from Irish servers around the world.
Eight of those link to Britain, and four to the US.

The vessel had its transponder switched off and is said to be loaded with manned and remote-operated submersibles which are used to attach listening devices to the undersea cables.

Mr Weichert explained: “The threat is very real. We saw a preview of this with the Russian operation in the Irish Sea where they were, I suspect, tapping or practising tapping and/or cutting those undersea cables.

“It stopped after continual public pressure was mounted by the Irish government.

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Russian spy ship

“The only way to fend off these ships is with vigilant navies.” (Image: Getty )

“A combination of intensive patrols in areas where the cables are located and diplomatic pressure is really all that can be done at present.”

But for the UK, the defences are reportedly not up to scratch.

Mr Weichert said: “The only way to fend off these ships is with vigilant navies. While the UK is attempting to restore the Royal Navy to its previous glory, it still has a long way to go.

“Although, since these cables are so close to British shores, I’d hope that Britain could muster the patrol craft necessary to seek out and stop any potential Russian meddlers in their waters.”

Not only is this a threat to Britain, but the entire continent.

Yantar

Russia’s spy ship, Yantar, was spotted off the Irish coast (Image: Getty )

Mr Weichert told Express.co.uk: “Cutting those cables would be catastrophic. It would degrade internet connectivity and effectively disconnect Europe from the rest of the world.

“This is especially troubling for the telecommunications side of things if Russia goes after Western satellite constellations.

“If those satellites are destroyed and/or damaged, then the undersea cables will be critical for keeping the global telecommunications network going–although without satellites, the communication will be slowed as there isn’t enough bandwidth in those cables to meet demand.

“This, then, gets us to the mortifying prospect of losing those satellites then also losing those undersea cables.

“Then you’re talking about a scenario where the Russians have effectively cut off Europe from the rest of the world in terms of internet and communications.”





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