Vladimir Putin could deploy submarine-launched drones to sever “vulnerable” undersea cables which keep the UK hooked up to the internet, defence committee chairman Tobias Ellwood has said. And Dr Sidarth Kaushal, a Research Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), has further warned such a move had the potential to cause “massive disruption”, especially when it came to financial transactions.
Tensions between the UK and Russia have been steadily rising ever since Putin ordered his invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
And Mr Ellwood, the Tory MP for Bournemouth East, stressed there was no room for complacency.
He told Express.co.uk: “There are very clever drones that can operate completely autonomously, that Russians are now developing and knowing that the economic harm they can cause is phenomenal.
“Not only that they can they can deny any culpability and that’s the direction of travel of the current conflict.
“Why bother attacking us directly militarily or in any battlefield when you can bring you can close down communications where the United States temporarily, or certainly interrupt it in a major way?
“There was a number of cables that are vulnerable, it’s not just communications, it’s also obviously oil and gas as well.
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“But one of the things they can do is actually sever undersea cables, or tap them for intelligence depending on the goal that Russia is seeking.”
It was therefore entirely feasible to cut through the crucial cables.
“The vast majority of, for example, the global internet depends on undersea cables, fibre-optic cables, as well as all the telegraph cables.
“It’s worth saying, there is quite a bit of redundancy in North Atlantic cable networks, so any given country is connected by multiple cables, you see this even with natural cable outages.
“When you do see natural events, disrupting a cable, about a decade ago near Vietnam, for example, it’s usually a day’s outage.
“So it’s not like losing a single cable would necessarily sever the UK’s access to the world, but it can produce massive disruption.
“And if you do have a kind of systematic pattern of targeting cables then you could actually see some pretty substantial costs imposed.
“Not just on people’s lives, but particularly on financial transactions which are by their nature very time sensitive and where small delays can cost huge amounts of money.”
Asked whether power supplies could likewise be targeted, Dr Kaushal added: “They could target offshore gas infrastructure, but that’s not really what the Russians have built their maritime sabotage capability.
“They can certainly do it, we saw that with Nord Stream, for example.
“But it’s not it’s not the primary focus – it’s more about the flow of electronic information.”