Ireland suspects Russia is trying to crack transatlantic fiber-optic ocean bed cables

Originally published at:


If only there were a global superpower to keep them in check.


Eventually it will turn out that the real reason they’re targeting Ireland is that the beer is better than other possible places.

During WWII part of the way Sweden negotiated their neutrality was by letting the Nazis continue to use phone lines through Sweden for their communications. Of course, Sweden tapped the lines and one of their mathematicians (who later became an important complex analyst), Arne Beurling, singlehandedly cracked their code.


There’s a very small number of underseas cables (200 or so), and they carry virtually all of the transoceanic traffic (satellites aren’t used except in special circumstances.)

It’s pretty easy to mark 200 locations on a map, and make plans to blast them out of existence at the start of hostilities. Underseas cables are politically ideal first strike points; being isolated and purely infrastructure targets, there’s no chance for loss of life or collateral damage. Disrupting them will sow mild chaos across Western society. And it will probably slow down coordination of a response amongst NATO signatories.

Recovery would be slow. There are very few of the specialized ships in existence that have the equipment needed to repair the cables. Important traffic would have to be specially routed through satellites, which wouldn’t have the bandwidth to carry the petabytes of cat videos and other pedestrian traffic.

It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that Russia’s already tried to place explosive charges on most of them already, and are just awaiting the command to detonate them.


Why bother with Ireland when they can just have the USA give them what they want?

I suppose they could be double-checking to confirm that some Deep State agent in the USA didn’t feed them bogus data.


It’s not a new idea. USA has been doing it for a long time:

And it negotiated better relations with the allies by telling them some of that information. Minor stuff like the upcoming operation Barbarossa. Staying out of a war that has engulfed all of your neighbors takes some skill and a flexible view on “neutrality”.


Longer than that.

“ the head of Room 40, spread the misinformation about the “three routes” to try to conceal from the United States the fact that Room 40 was intercepting its cable traffic.[ citation needed ]”


I can’t believe that the Ruskies are up to there old games…


It might be new games. If they can get useful data off of the cables, it could give Russia’s oligarchs commercial advantages.


Ironically, the Russians didn’t believe the Swedes on Barbarossa because the wiretapping was kept secret.

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if we every see democracy again in said superpower, I think it would be appropriate to physically remove Russia from the internet outside their borders

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Belt and suspenders.


Only in the way that a nuclear surprise attack is “ideal”; it’s fine if you can win that conflict outright before it even starts, but otherwise it will very quickly lead to the destruction of all long-distance communication for everyone everywhere.

Many countries could in principle destroy undersea cables, even in deep water. The fact there are no direct casualties means that the symmetrical response to having one of your cables destroyed is to destroy one of your enemy’s cables (rather than bombing an airbase or whatever). And since, as you say, there are few cables to begin with, it’d only take a short round of tit-for-tat before they were all destroyed. There’s little military advantage to either side but the economic damage would be huge (which also makes this a textbook war crime, fwiw).

Also, sabotaging international communications, by definition, affects multiple nations. In most cases you’d be making war on dozens of nations at once, making the idea of a discrete, limited engagement even more implausible.

It’d be more feasible to “win” a nuclear war than a cable-cutting war, which is why no one has ever done it and probably never will.


I guess that a theoretical Russian Security Organisation could use tension between the UK and Ireland over Brexit to spin a sufficiently plausible cover, pointing the finger at a Rogue Element within the IRA being behind the destruction of the cables.

I think Sweden only told the British and then they told the Russians, so it was one more level of indirection as to where the information came from. There were plenty of sources on what the Germans was up to, Stalin was just convinced the treaty and his massive troops near the border would deter them, at least for a while longer.

The code breaking part is the most impressive, I don’t think anyone have been able to figure out exactly how Beurling did it in such a short time. He used mistakes by Germans who sent the same message twice with separate encryption, but still.

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“Russia has sent intelligence agents to Ireland to map the precise location of the fibre-optic, ocean-bed cables that connect Europe to America,”

Complete BS. Cable paths and landings are clearly marked on publicly available charts. You don’t want some idiot sailor dragging anchor through them.


That seems like a good way to convince them to start cutting cables of their own.

There is a similar situation in satellites. One nuke detonated in low Earth orbit will create a radiation belt that disrupt a large fraction of all satellites yet causes no direct human casualties. No direct winners, but some smaller nation pushed far enough might do it just to spite the rest of the world.

I think your on point but I wonder if remote detonation is as easy as it sounds ? it got me thinking how that would work exactly , I think it would require some under sea cable splicing as radio waves only penetrate about 2 meters of water so demolitions or some other from remote severance would need to be set up at reasonable to dive depth by a skilled fibre optics technician with a varying degree of dive training depending on the depth. the explosive device itself would need to be designed to wth stand the pressure which should be pretty easy and I’m suspecting battery life in a cold undersea environment could also become an issue not insurmountable. I think in a wartime scenario it would be difficult to access the shallower locations to dive and getting agents or contractors or what ever with the right training into position through espionage is probably not so simple either during hostilities . I think dragging an anchor across the cable as happened in the middled east to three cables simultaneously about 14 or 15 years ago is a potentially more viable method . not saying i know what i’m talking about just musing


Bingo. Their American assets are unreliable, at best…


If they’d only taken advantage of the Fraud Guarantee… /s