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Russia Probes Undersea Cables
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  • Tom

    Relevant question: what on earth are politicians supposed to do about this?

    • Ofer Imanuel

      Task army / CIA to come up with a plan?
      Allocate some of out tax money to implement them?

    • Jim__L

      For the undersea cable case:

      – Make a counter-move to show that we can threaten vehicles that threaten our assets
      – Pour more money into alternative forms of communication — hardened space-based comm, for example. Severing one of our cables had far less of a downside to Russia than making a mess of Earth orbit that anti-satellite weapons entail
      – Show that we can similarly threaten them, emphasizing that they have an interest in not causing trouble

      – Increase our defense expenditures generally to support the Pax Americana. Make it clear that we’re committed to a strong military. Note that it doesn’t mean *use* that military. “Speak softly and carry a big stick”, in the ideal case, simply makes the world a quiet place.
      – Signal to our allies that we expect them to put more funding into defense. Instead of tossing Winston Churchill’s bust out of the Oval Office, make it clear to Euro-weenie military-cutters that their type is no longer welcome in Washington.

      It’s not that tough.

      • Tom

        Makes sense, and I agree.
        This post, however, had none of those eminently sensible suggestion. Instead, it had hand-wringing.

      • f1b0nacc1

        While I agree with the general tone of your post, I might offer a few (minor) quibbles:
        1) Short of shadowing every Russian vessel in international waters, and being prepared to destroy those that ‘look suspicious’, there isn’t much we can do to “threaten vehicles that threaten our assets”. The Russians could easily use subs, ‘fishing trawlers’, cargo ships, etc. to carry UUVs to do what is necessary to cut cables, and they could just as easily plant explosives weeks/months/years in advance, and/or trigger them remotely. Active countermeasures in this case (short of an open threat of war, and likely not even then…particularly with this president) aren’t really practical.
        2) While I absolutely agree that creating more and more robust commlinks is an excellent idea, almost all of the alternatives to undersea cables are MUCH lower capacity, and far more vulnerable to mischief. Satellites are horrifyingly vulnerable to ASAT systems (many of which are not easily observable), and contrary to that silly movie, ASATS will not cause a cascading disaster in orbit.
        3) We (meaning the American people…specifically the voters) are NOT committed to a strong military, at least in the sense of a credible military force that can actually protect our interests or support any sort of Pax Americana. You and I believe that this would be a good thing, but (sadly) at least on of our political parties (and its idiot followers) do not.
        4) Our allies simply disregard our pleas for them to spend real money on defense. There are any number of reasons for this but we have been singing this particular song since the 80s, and not getting through. Europe is a lost cause….perhaps our best hope is to leave NATO, make deals with those states willing to defend themselves (and right now, that isn’t a long list), and hope the example set encourages the others. I am not optimistic.
        So I suppose that my point is that while I agree with the spirit of your suggestions, I think that there are numerous difficulties you haven’t taken into account. In point of fact, it IS that tough.

        • Jim__L

          1) Shadowing enough of Russia’s vehicles secretly can force policy makers to assume all of them are watched. That’s a good place to start.
          2) Satellite tech is pushing up through the spectrum, increasing available bandwidth. I’ve read too many AIAA conference papers on cascading failures in orbit to discount ASAT drawbacks.
          3) Iraq was not unpopular because it was a war. It was unpopular because it was not a success. This related to Trump’s popularity.
          4) Interesting idea — don’t leave NATO ourselves, just make it clear that we’re re-negotiating, and we won’t let other signatories re-up unless they pay their way.

          • f1b0nacc1

            1) If we couldn’t effectively shadow enough of Russia’s vehicles during the Cold War with 500-600 naval vessels (we couldn’t, I speak from direct experience) we aren’t going to be able to do it now with about half of that. Trawlers, fishing boats, cargo ships, third party vessels, etc. not even counting military vessels are far far too numerous to even begin to effectively track, and a few dozen could carry more than enough UUVs to handle the destruction of most critical nodes.
            2) Satellite tech would be fine to support a barebones military requirement (though VERY barebones, and this would severely impact the US military even if it didn’t cripple it outright), but the civilian requirements for bandwidth are several orders of magnitude higher. We are decades (if that) away from any conceivable satellite-based replacements for cables. As for ASATs and the Kessler syndrome, the math doesn’t work out. Yes some damage could be done, but unless you are talking about a determined effort to destroy a whole lot of satellites and maximize the debris while doing so, you aren’t going to get that sort of effect. Very few communications satellites are in a low enough orbit, for one, and the volume of space you are talking about is huge, and increases as the cube of the distance you expand to. Now if you assume that someone starts lobbing nukes around, or takes aggressive steps to maximize debris in orbit instead of targeting some satellites, this is possible (still very unlikely unless you use nukes), but in that case you have moved way past any sort of limited war and into a dangerous territory that I doubt even Putin is willing to consider.
            3) I didn’t mention Iraq, and though I agree completely with your interpretation, I am unclear as to how it relates to my point?
            4) The structure of NATO itself is rotten to the core, and isn’t redeemable. As it is a treaty organization, we cannot just renegotiate it unless the rest of the ‘partners’ are willing to do so. More to the point, however, a firm set of bilateral agreements would be easier to work with, and would set a better example for our non-NATO partners. I suspect that as with several of these other points, we are largely in agreement, and differ primarily on tactics….

  • Government Drone

    I’m sure that Obama’s told Putin there’s a very ominous Red Line here.
    More seriously, the way to deal with it is a lot of rather aggressive patrolling of the routes the cables take, supplemented by a lot of in-site sensors that are constantly replenished & otherwise kept functional. The latter is something the US is probably already doing (I would hope), but the former requires a hefty & continuing investment in naval vessels & personnel, & Obama’s goal all these years seems to be to drastically reduce military spending, at least as much as he’s able to.
    My guess is that if this is something the current administration is concerned about, its first instinct is to go to the UN & try to get some big international agreement not to touch these cables, & then wave a piece of paper & proclaiming Peace In Our Time and deciding it’s done. It’s not the worst possible thing to do, I suppose, but this administration seems congenitally incapable of learning not to blindly trust the “international community”.

    • Fat_Man

      “I’m sure that Obama’s told Putin there’s a very ominous Red Line here.”

      I am sure that Putin doubled over with laughter.

    • Jim__L

      At some point, it really does become the worst possible thing to do — when it becomes clear that that is all we would ever do, and every future instance just amplifies that reputation for fecklessness.

      We may have passed that point already.

      • f1b0nacc1

        We have

  • johne843

    Who does WRM think gave the go ahead to leak this to the New York Times? Perhaps a politician?

  • next bubble

    The CDR. Salamader blog has a great headline about this:

    Meaning, this was normal during the Cold War. That idea we can get by on a smaller military, and in particular a smaller Navy, no longer exists. Reality is often different from what you want.

    • f1b0nacc1

      It is a far, far more serious problem now. The undersea cables were useful during the Cold War, the internet links that they support are essential now.
      On the other hand, the Internet was built to route around damage, so short of a completely successful strike against all these cables, we would face a degraded, not dead internet. The real questions is what would we do in retaliation?

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