Justin Sherman from the Atlantic Council writes:
"In the current crisis, observers should watch the one submarine cable that carries global internet traffic directly into Ukraine: the Kerch Strait Cable, laid in 2014 by Rostelecom, the Russian state-owned telecommunications company. After the annexation, Crimean internet service providers (ISPs) began using the cable to route internet traffic through Russia. Because the most immediate impact of cutting it would be to internet communications in Crimea itself, the Kremlin may be less likely to damage this cable."
"Yet if the standoff over Ukraine intensifies, the Kremlin might calculate that such a move is worth the risk if it could be combined with other actions to disrupt internet communications in the rest of the country, too. In that scenario, Russian military and intelligence assets in Crimea could have their internet access disrupted (which would perhaps give Ukraine a reason to target that infrastructure). But at the same time, targeting the cable while targeting other infrastructure outside Crimea could create panic in the rest of Ukraine and limit the international community’s visibility into further Russian actions—well in line with the Kremlin’s willingness to accept some costs to invade and forcibly exert control over Ukraine."
But adds later the potential for even more globally damaging scenarios should the conflict spread outside of Ukraine.
"In the most globally damaging scenario, the Russian military could target any of the dozens of submarine cables linking other parts of Europe to the global internet—and which, by extension, may carry traffic originating in (and destined for) Ukraine. For instance, there are sixteen submarine cables touching Ireland, and cutting some of those cables—a couple of which are in the vicinity of the Russian exercis would damage the flow of global internet traffic and could take several hours or even days to repair. It could also considerably distract those countries from other world events."
Will Russia or Russia-based actors cut an undersea internet cable before 2023?
This question will resolve positively if, before January 1, 2023, any part of an underwater internet cable is reported to have been cut, or purposefully damaged, by either Russian-based actors or the Russian military by at least 3 reputable sources.
Any means of cutting or damaging will be accepted as long as some or all of the cables within the main cable are not functional.
The damage must be attributable to Russia or Russian-based actors. Reports that say "could be" or "may be Russian" will not count toward resolution.
A useful source for seeing all the current underwater internet cables can be found here
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