In Ye Olden Days, the concern about a Russian-American conflict would be the end of the world as we know it. In the 21st century however, an international crisis requires cutting undersea internet cables.
According to a New York Times headline, ‘Russian Ships Near Data Cables Are Too Close For U.S. Comfort’. The point is that apparently, Russian submarines have been hanging out too close to undersea communications cables, raising concerns that they would be cut in a time of war.
As the Times points out, this wouldn’t be a new phenomenon: the U.S. has been tapping underseas cables since the crux of the Cold War, and there’s no overt proof that the Russians have been doing the same.
But the Times’s sources say this is a matter for concern: one Admiral said he is “worried every day about what the Russians may be doing”; another former military official said “this is yet another example of a highly assertive and aggressive regime seemingly reaching backwards for the tools of the Cold War, albeit with a high degree of technical improvement.”
The level (or not) of the threat is impossible to know without spies placed deeply inside the Kremlin. But either way, it’s interesting to see how critical the infrastructure of the internet is these days—and how different a Tom Clancy movie would look in the modern era.