Following reports attributing the September destruction of Russia's Nord Stream gas pipelines to the Ukrainian or US government, the deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council has declared that President Vladimir Putin should feel free to sever undersea communication cables of the country's "enemies."
"If we proceed from the proven complicity of Western countries in blowing up the Nord Streams, then we have no constraints - even moral - left to prevent us from destroying the ocean floor cable communications of our enemies," said Dmitry Medvedev on Telegram. Medvedev was Russia's president from 2008 to 2012 and is a close ally of Putin.
Last month, NATO intelligence chief David Cattler warned of a rising risk of just such a move. "There are heightened concerns that Russia may target undersea cables and other critical infrastructure in an effort to disrupt Western life, to gain leverage against those nations that are providing security to Ukraine," he told reporters. Naturally, the NATO intel officer's list of potential motivations omitted retaliation-in-kind in the wake of the severing of the Nord Stream pipelines.
"The Russians are more active than we have seen them in years in this domain," Cattler told reporters, noting a higher pace of Russian patrols all across the Atlantic and in the Baltic and North seas. "Russia is actively mapping allied critical infrastructure both on land and on the seabed."
The oceans are a target-rich environment. More than 400 undersea cables carry more than 95% of international internet traffic. "Altogether, they carry an estimated 10 trillion U.S. dollars worth of financial transactions every day, so these cables really are an economic linchpin," said Cattler.
Contradicting Western propaganda narratives that Russia destroyed its own source of economic leverage over Europe, recent months have seen reports that either the US or Ukrainian governments blew up the pipelines.
- In February, citing "a source with direct knowledge of the operational planning," legendary journalist Seymour Hersh published a bombshell report that US Navy divers executed the operation under the cover of a NATO exercise.
- Last month, a consortium of European investigative journalists reported that the investigative trail led to Ukraine and centered on a 15-meter yacht that was hired from a Polish company and docked at a tiny Danish island near the explosion site.
In what sounded like it could be an orchestrated propaganda ploy to bolster US government denials of any role in an act of economic warfare that's taken a high toll on European civilians, this week various outlets reported that, after receiving a report that Ukraine was plotting such move, the CIA warned Ukraine against executing it.
The prospect of a Russian attack on Western communications infrastructure -- in retaliation for what was likely a Western-conducted or Western-encouraged attack on a Russian gas pipeline -- is the latest reminder that all of us are constantly at risk of being victimized by wars our government provokes with utter disregard for the consequences.