The Chief of the UK Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, has echoed Policy Exchange’s warnings about potential threats to the undersea communications cables that are vital to the internet and international commerce.
Giving the annual Chief of Defence Staff Lecture at the Royal United Services Institute, Sir Stuart said:
“There is a new risk to our prosperity and way of life, to the cables that crisscross our sea beds, disruption to which through cable-cuts or destruction would immediately – and catastrophically – fracture both international trade and the internet.
“In response to the threat posed by the modernisation of the Russian navy – both nuclear and conventional submarines and ships – the UK and other Atlantic Nato allies have had to prioritise missions and tasks in order to protect the sea lines of communication.
“In addition to new ships and submarines, Russia continues to perfect unconventional capabilities and information warfare. Therefore, we must continue to develop our maritime forces with our allies to match Russian fleet modernisation.”
Peach’s warning comes less than two weeks after the publication of Policy Exchange’s report Undersea Cables: Indispensable, insecure, written by Rishi Sunak MP, which highlights that 97% of global communications and $10 trillion in daily financial transactions are transmitted by cables lying deep beneath the ocean. The report notes that undersea cables are the indispensable infrastructure of our time, essential to our modern life and digital economy, but are inadequately protected and highly vulnerable to attack at sea and on land, from both hostile states and terrorists.