Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Cold War Revivalism

"It would be a concern to hear any country was tampering with communication cables; however, due to the classified nature of submarine operations, we do not discuss specifics."
Cmdr. William Marks, Navy spokesman, Washington

"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."
Adm. James Stavridis, former NATO top military commander, dean, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy

"The risk here is that any country could cause damage to the system and do it in a way that is completely covert, without having a warship with a cable-cutting equipment right in the area,"
"Cables get cut all the time — by anchors that are dragged, by natural disasters."
"Undersea cables tend to follow the similar path since they were laid in the 1860s."
Michael Sechrist, former project manager, Harvard-M.I.T. research project, partly funded by the Defense Department

"The Yantar is equipped with a unique on board scientific research complex which enables it to collect data on the ocean environment, both in motion and on hold. There are no similar complexes anywhere."
Alexei Burilichev, head, deepwater research department, Russian Defense Ministry 
The Russian research ship Yantar
Russian research ship Yantar
The United States is warning its NATO partners that Russian submarines and spy ships are operating aggressively close by the undersea cables which are so vital to everything relating to a modern, technologically-dependent world, from communications to economics on a wider scale than ever envisaged. Almost all global Internet communications operate through those undersea cables. And now American military and intelligence authorities fear Russia might be seeking to attack those lines at some future time of high tension or conflict.

For their part, the United States has been itself attentive to undersea cables. Forty years ago the American submarine Halibut, in the Sea of Okhotsk north of Japan stumbled across a telecommunications cable in use by Soviet nuclear forces, and took the serendipitous opportunity to tap into its secrets. This was a mission so confidential that the submarine's personnel had no idea what was happening. But the mission was the first of a concealed effort in cable-tapping.

The U.S. Navy launched the submarine Jimmy Carter about a decade ago. According to intelligence analysts it is capable of tapping undersea cables to eavesdrop on communications. Now, American officials are monitoring the Russian submarine, Yantar which, according to the official Russian line is an oceanographic ship meant for scientific purposes, mapping the world's oceans and cluing in to environmental issues, but with no relevance to espionage whatever.

yantarminisub

But the United States feels that its communications deep-sea cables are particularly vulnerable, particularly the special cables with their secret locations meant for military purposes which, unlike most traditional communications cables are unmapped. They suspect the Yantar is on the hunt for those cables. For what they accomplished with rousing success, is a matter of interest as well to their military adversaries, particularly in this renewed climate of suspicion and Russian aggression in the skies and on the high seas.

Military cables and the secret messages they convey aside, communications cables have a vital role to play, carrying global business valued at over $10-trillion daily from financial institutions' transactions, every second. Any disruption would be capable of cutting the flow of capital resulting in a significant problem of huge dimensions. Over 95 percent of global daily communications as well are carried through those cables.

So within the Pentagon and American spy agencies, Russia's growing naval activities, are of a highly classified variety  and never discussed in public, in a critical atmosphere of national protection from  any potential adverse activity. Much the way the Kremlin would feel if the reverse were to be the problem, and who is to say that too isn't the case? The issue is the safeguarding of those vulnerable cables in an effort to monitor activity by submarines nosing about, and how, should a disruption occur, their functionality could be speedily recovered.

American naval commanders and intelligence agents report from the North Sea to Northeast Asia, and including waters more proximate to American shores, significantly increased Russian activity along known routes of the cables being monitored. Global electronic communications and commerce under any form of attack would spell a dimension of disaster unimagined. Cyberattacks of any kind are feared intrusions into the function of any advanced nation.

Equipped with two self-propelled deep-sea submersible craft, the Russian spy ship Yantar, cruised off the East Coast of America en route to Cuba, precisely where a major cable approaches the U.S. naval station at Guantanamo Bay. U.S. spy satellites, ships and lanes monitored the Russian ship constantly. The submersible vehicles dropped from the Yantar, according to U.S. Navy officials have the capacity to cut cables deep miles into the sea.

"The level of activity", a senior European diplomat stated, "is comparable to what we saw in the Cold War". Certainly the rank suspicion is.

yantar2

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