The headlines could hardly be scarier and more apocalyptic. In a speech delivered by the head of Britain’s military last week, the world learned that Russian President Putin could bring about global financial collapse and return civilization to a communications dark ages by a mere snip-snip of underwater transatlantic internet cables!
Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach warned Russia could in an instant end 97% of global communications capabilities and disrupt trillions in daily financial transactions, ushering in a "catastrophic" economic collapse, as the roughly 200 international undersea network cables are under imminent threat. Peach said that Russia’s modernized Navy constitutes a “new risk to our way of life.”
Putin engaging in undersea collusion with Trump. Image source: AFP/Getty
The speech from a lone British military chief generated endless fear-inducing headlines and thousands of lines of anxiety and panic-driven commentary, a mere sampling of which is below…
Russia could cut off internet to NATO countries, British military chief warns (NBC)
Russian Navy ‘could cut underwater cables and devastate UK economy’ warns UK Armed Forces chief (IBT)
UK defense chief says Russia poses risk to undersea cables (AP)
Top British Officer: Russia May Be Able To Cut Undersea Cables (NPR)
How Russia could use drones armed with explosives to destroy vital underwater cables linking Britain’s phone and internet to rest of the world (UK Mirror)
Russia’s naval updates threaten undersea comms network, says top British military officer (Defense News)
Russian Ships Could Cause ‘Catastrophe’ for West by Cutting Transatlantic Internet Cables (Newsweek)
Could Russia cut undersea communication cables? (BBC)
Russia could cut off internet to Nato countries, British military chief warns (The Guardian)
Russia ‘could cut UK’s undersea internet cables’, defence chief warns (The Independent)
Russia ‘could CRIPPLE Britain by cutting undefended undersea internet cables’ (The Sun)
Senior British Officer: Russia Could Cut Undersea Cables (Newsmax)
Top UK military official says NATO must protect underwater cables from possible attacks by Russia (EuroNews)
Russian navy ship Yantar can sever internet cables (Sunday Times)
Meanwhile, Defense News included in its coverage the following casual and passing reference:
“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 modernization,” said Peach, who will give up his job as Britain’s top military commander next year to become chairman of the NATO Military Committee.
So NATO’s future military chief needs to increase those budgets before sliding into his new position you say? His speech also emphasized how member countries need to ensure their own fleet modernization keeps pace with the oh-so-scary ‘Russian threat’. Budgets, budgets, budgets people! Cause the Russians are coming!
But we’ve seen those headlines before – they are essentially the same as a barrage of stories that came out in 2015, also based on military officials speculating and ruminating on all the possible scariest Russian threats.
Oops! Though it sounds like a fresh new Russian threat the media had yet to tap into, it turns out the British commander is merely channeling these old headlines, most from October 2015 after a New York Times story ran which relied on the usual "anonymous officials". Well, perhaps it just sounds more legit the second time around when delivered through a British accent?
RUSSIA COULD CUT UNDERWATER INTERNET CABLES. If my aunt had balls, she’d be my uncle. #mediahysteria #whatif
— aLleluia (@DumbJam) December 16, 2017
The 2015 NYT story cited the Russian underwater cable threat as "raising concerns among some American military and intelligence officials that the Russians might be planning to attack those lines in times of tension or conflict." Below is a small sampling of the headlines generated from that more than two year old reporting originally based on "some American military and intelligence officials":
Russian Ships Near Data Cables Are Too Close for U.S. Comfort (NYT, Oct. 2015)
Why Is Russia Interested in Undersea Internet Cables (VOA News, Nov. 2015)
Fears over Russian submarine and spy ship patrols near vital undersea internet cables (Daily Mail/Reuters, Oct. 2015)
How Bad Would It Be If The Russians Started Cutting Undersea Cables? Try Trillions In Damage (Forbes, Nov. 2015)
We Asked an Expert What Would Happen if Russia Cut the Pipeline to the Internet (Vice News, Oct. 2015)
US fears Russia could sever undersea internet cables (The Verge, Oct. 2015)
Russia, the Internet and a new way to wage war? (CNN, Oct. 2015)
US fears that Russia is plotting to sever its undersea internet cables (The Inquirer, Oct. 2015)
Russia possibly mapping underwater internet cables in Mediterranean (Washington Times, Oct. 2016)
Undersea Cables: How Russia Targets the West’s Soft Underbelly (Oct. 2015)
In Case Of Nuclear War, Cut Internet Cables (Oct. 2015)
Naturally, Congress should impose new sanctions on Russia, banning all bolt and wire cutters from being shipped to the country… Before it’s too late!