As a result of Russia’s increased interest in undersea cables which serve to operate the internet worldwide, the U.S. Treasury Department has placed two individuals and two companies on its sanctions list. It did so because they aided a Russian firm Divetechnoservices which helped improve Russia’s underwater surveillance abilities by buying undersea equipment and diving systems for Russia. The undersea cables are conduits for almost all global telecommunications data including banking activities.
Sir Stuart Peach Britain’s military chief said that Russia could now pose a major threat to NATO if it decides to cut the undersea cables.
There are presently about 500 submarine cables totaling about 1 million kilometers in length which are operating globally. Almost all of the cables are privately owned.
These undersea cables have become a major Russian target for surveillance. In 2015 The United States observed a Russian spy vessel Yantar probing a cable routed to Cuba. Yantar carries advanced surveillance equipment and underwater vehicles and two manned submersibles that the BBC reported can dive over 6,000 meters. In once article from the BBC stated that that the ship has devices which can tap these cables to obtain data flowing through them.
Recently the commander of NATO’s submarine forces said that Russia’s naval activity around the North Atlantic was greater than during Cold War levels.